The watchful eye of the "patron saint of drug dealers" was no match for the powerful nose of one of Lake County's best drug-sniffing canines, police say.
And now a Round Lake Beach man faces a series of felony drug charges stemming from a Friday night traffic stop in Round Lake Park.
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According to Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko, gang officers pulled over Marcelino Vargas, 32, of the 200 block of East Clarendon Drive in Round Lake Beach at 9:45 p.m. Friday at Indian Trail and Hainesville roads. Filenko said officers called in Blaze to search Vargas' 2006 Cadillac Escalade after Vargas "was fidgety and did not have a valid driver's license."
A quick sweep of Vargas' vehicle turned up 7 grams of cocaine, Filenko said. Vargas later consented to a search of his residence where 31 additional grams of cocaine and fake IDs were found, according to police. Each gram, Filenko said, has a street value between $150 and $200.
"As weird as it sounds, the guy actually consented to let us search his house, and we found significantly more cocaine," Filenko said. "But even more unusual was the shrine (Vargas) had built in his home with statues, candles and photos to the parton saint of drug dealers, Jesus Malverde. His prayers didn't work for this one."
Jesús Malverde is sometimes known as the "generous bandit," "angel of the poor," or the "narco saint," and is a folklore hero in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. He is celebrated as a folk saint by some in Mexico and the U.S., particularly among those involved in drug trafficking.
The Escalade was seized and Vargas has been charged with unlawful possession of a control substance with intent to deliver cocaine, unlawful possession of a control substance and unlawful possession of fraudulent identification.
According to Lake County jail officials, Vargas posted 10 percent of his $25,000 and will next appear in court on Sept. 25.
Earlier in the week, police from several agencies also executed search warrants in Round Lake Heights and Round Lake and collected about $10,000 in cash and 30 grams of cocaine.