CHICAGO — Two leaders of separate but sometimes collaborating drug-trafficking organizations were arrested and are among 39 defendants facing federal drug charges, federal and local law enforcement officials announced Friday.
The charges stem from an investigation led jointly by the following agencies: FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Chicago Police Department.
Agents executed three federal search warrants Thursday at the same time they began arresting defendants in the Chicago area, Indiana, Texas and California. Agents seized about 2.5 kilograms (about 5.5 pounds) of cocaine, more than $175,000 in cash, and several firearms. The two alleged leaders, Jesus Ramirez-Padilla, 39, and Humberto Jimenez, 26, were among 27 defendants arrested. The whereabouts of four others were accounted for, and eight remain fugitives. Previously, during the one-year investigation that began in July 2011, agents had seized more than 13 kilograms of cocaine, 10 kilograms of marijuana, 1.5 kilograms of heroin, and about $75,000 in cash.
All 39 defendants were charged with various drug distribution offenses in a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in the Northern District of Illinois and unsealed Sept. 27 following the arrests. The defendants who were arrested began appearing Thursday before Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez in U.S. District Court; they remain in federal custody pending detention hearings scheduled for next week.
Thursday's operation brings to nearly 100 the number of defendants who have been arrested and charged in Chicago with federal or state drug trafficking offenses in the last three weeks.
Gary S. Shapiro, acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, praised the dedication and teamwork of the FBI, DEA, and HSI agents who worked diligently with the Chicago Police Department to disrupt these alleged drug-trafficking organizations. Shapiro announced the charges with the following: William C. Monroe, acting special agent-in-charge of the FBI in Chicago; Jack Riley, special agent-in-charge of DEA in Chicago; Gary Hartwig, special agent-in-charge of HSI Chicago; and Garry F. McCarthy, superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.
The following agencies also participated: U.S. Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division, Illinois State Police, Cook County Sheriff's Police, and the Illinois police departments of Berwyn and Oak Lawn. The investigation was conducted under the umbrella of the U.S. Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
According to the complaint affidavit, the investigation determined that Ramirez-Padilla and Jimenez, both of Chicago, each led their own drug trafficking organization. Both organizations regularly bought and sold multi-kilogram quantities of powder cocaine on Chicago's southwest side. Each organization had its own wholesale distributors, drug couriers, stash houses, workers and suppliers. Although the Ramirez and Jimenez organizations operated independently, they sometimes supplied each other with kilograms of powder cocaine. Both organizations took steps to protect themselves from detection by law enforcement, such as: using code words to disguise references to narcotics and other items, regularly replacing telephones, using different vehicles to transport drugs, and engaging in counter-surveillance techniques.
The 205-page affidavit details conversations among various defendants who were intercepted on 26 different telephones during the investigation pursuant to court-authorized electronic surveillance.
Sixteen defendants, who were charged in two separate conspiracies to possess and distribute cocaine and/or heroin, face a mandatory minimum of 10 years to a maximum of life in prison, and a $10 million fine. The remaining defendants face maximum sentences of up to 20 or 40 years in prison, and maximum fines of $2 million or $5 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathalina Hudson, Joseph Thompson, and John Kness Northern District of Illinois, are prosecuting this case.
The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.