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Indianapolis-to-Chicago drug trafficking organization dismantled

More than $1.5 million worth of cocaine seized

INDIANAPOLIS - The dismantling of a drug smuggling organization operating from Mexico to Chicago and Indianapolis was announced on Tuesday by U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett, Southern District of Indiana.

What started out as an undercover buy of three grams of cocaine for $150 on July 27 culminated on Dec. 15 with the seizure of 48 kilograms (109 pounds) of cocaine with a street value of $1.5 million, and 4.4 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of up to $80,000. This drug organization was responsible for distributing up to five pounds of methamphetamine and 10 kilograms of cocaine per month in the Indianapolis area.

U.S. Attorney Hogsett said, "A drug bust of this significance occurs only once every couple of years."

Eight individuals were charged in a federal indictment and 25 individuals were arrested on state charges. Also seized in the operation was 184 pounds of marijuana,18 guns, and $69,535 in U.S. currency. These charges resulted from an eight month investigation led by the Indianapolis Metro Drug Task Force, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The federal indictment charges the following eight individuals with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute both powder cocaine and methamphetamine:

  • Gerardo Benitez-Arellano, 33, of Indianapolis and Mexico
  • Agustin Lozano, 34, of Indianapolis and Mexico
  • Rene Israel Ortega, 34, of Lombard, Ill., and Mexico
  • Juan Carlos Torres, 35, of Indianapolis and Honduras
  • Erika Vazques-Joachin, 27, of Indianapolis and Mexico
  • Victor Dominguez-Ruiz, 28, of Indianapolis and Mexico
  • Claudia Del Cid Paz, 25, of Indianapolis and Honduras
  • Guadalupe Ivara, 30, of Crest Hill, Ill., and Mexico

According to Assistant U. S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler, who is prosecuting the case for the government, most of the defendants, if convicted, face possible 10 year minimum mandatory prison sentences. The following law enforcement agencies provided extensive cooperation with the investigation:

  • ICE's Homeland Security Investigations
  • Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department
  • Marion County Prosecutors Office
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Internal Revenue Service - OIG
  • Carmel, Indiana Police Department
  • Hamilton County Sheriff's Office (Indiana)
  • Hancock, County County Sheriff's Office (Indiana)
  • City of Lawrence Police Department

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.