A federal investigation into a drug trafficking operation with ties to Des Plaines has resulted in charges against seven men and the seizure of 20 kilograms of heroin, more than $1 million and a stolen Green Bay Packers Super Bowl ring.
Federal agents discovered the Super Bowl XLV ring and a portion of the cash in the home of Anthony Santiago on the 500 block of Bellaire Avenue in Des Plaines while conducting a search warrant in May, officials said.
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Santiago and six other men are members of a drug trafficking organization involving Mexican nationals with direct ties to Mexico, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The men were arrested May 21.
Agents seized a total of 20 kilograms of heroin in connection with the arrests, $1.4 million, 18 weapons and jewelry including the Super Bowl XLV ring, which was reported stolen by a team executive, according to the DEA.
Federal agents from the Chicago division have been working with agents in Miami, during the investigation as well as local organizations including Cook County sheriff's police, Waukegan police, the Des Plaines Fire Department and the Cook County state's attorney's office.
Two federal complaints trace the movement of heroin on two occasions during the operation.
A complaint filed on May 22 involving 38-year-old Santiago and Jason Hill, 40, of Chicago describes a transaction of a kilogram of heroin that started at Santiago's house and was tossed onto the shoulder of the I-88 westbound ramp from I-294 during a police chase.
DEA agents began tapping the phones lines of Santiago and Hill on May 10 and were conducting surveillance in the area of Santiago's Des Plaines home two days later after hearing of an imminent deal, according to the complaint.
Agents observed Hill leave Santiago's residence with the brick of heroin and police conducted a traffic stop on the I-88 westbound ramp from I-294 later that night, according to the complaint.
Hill sped off when an officer who had recognized him from the Cook County jail asked to search his vehicle, according to the complaint. Hill sped in and out of traffic on both shoulder of the highway with multiple vehicles in pursuit and threw the drugs out of his window, according to the complaint.
Hill managed to lose the officers, but authorities intercepted a call he made about 10 minutes later, asking Santiago to pick him up at the Yorktown mall. Officers found Hill in the lobby of Famous Dave's restaurant pacing and talking on a cellphone, according to the complaint.
He was charged with fleeing and eluding, speeding and failure to signal, but was released from custody after appearing in Cook County circuit court on May 14, according to authorities.
Six of the seven members of the organization were arrested a week after Hill was released, but agents could not locate Hill, said Special Agent Owen Putman, a DEA spokesman.
Putman said Hill was released from custody after his court date on the traffic charges, because federal authorities had not finished their investigation and the federal drug charges had not been filed.
Santiago, Hill, Pedro Salas of Belvidere, Jesus Fuentes of Gary, Ind., Sargio Baltazer-Lujano, of Chicago, Gerardo Baltazar-Lujano, of Chicago and Ester Carrera of Gary were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin.
"These charges show that law enforcement can make significant inroads into drug trafficking organizations and that the major players are not immune from prosecution," said Special Agent Jack Riley, head of the DEA's Chicago Field Division in a statement.
The charge carries a 10-year mandatory sentence and a maximum of life in prison as well as a maximum $10 million fine.