2 accused in Aurora heroin operation fight arrest
Two Evanston residents charged with laundering $190,050 for an Aurora heroin operation are fighting to have evidence and money seized from them banned from trial.
Attorneys for Juan C. Fernandez, 39, and Renya Garcia-Mazanares, 41, both of the 400 block of Howard Street, argue the search of their vehicle in April 2014 was unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment, according to court records.
Defense attorney Jon Erickson argues in court papers that Fernandez and his passenger, Garcia-Mazanares, were detained for an hour after a traffic stop on suspicion of speeding, and authorities did not have an arrest warrant nor search warrant for the vehicle.
Authorities only found an empty plastic bag, an opened FedEx package, a baby seat, a cellphone and some documents, Erickson wrote in his motion.
Even though they didn't find anything illegal, authorities continued their search and called a Chicago police sergeant who specializes in finding aftermarket vehicle traps an hour later, according to the motion.
Sgt. John Hamilton found $190,050 in a hidden compartment in the vehicle, but the search and interrogation violated Fernandez right against unreasonable search and seizure, Erickson argues.
"In this case, questioning the defendant and his passenger about the contents of the vehicle during what was allegedly a stop for speeding clearly exceeded the scope of the stop," Erickson wrote.
The two were arrested on the same day as Modesto Alarcon, 42, of Aurora, who is charged with possession of more than nine kilograms of heroin, which is one of the largest heroin busts in Kane County.
Alarcon remains in custody on $15 million bail.
If convicted of felony money laundering, Fernandez and Garcia-Mazanares face up to 15 years in prison. Both were being held at the Kane County jail on $500,000 bail, meaning each must post $50,000 to be released while the charges are pending.
A judge is scheduled to hear arguments from prosecutors and defense attorneys Jan. 8.