Itasca tobacco shop employees charged in synthetic drug sting
By Josh Stockinger
Two employees of an Itasca tobacco shop were arrested after an undercover investigation into the sale of synthetic marijuana, which has been banned in Illinois, police said Tuesday.
Sureshbhai Patel, 53, of Des Plaines, and James Barker, 28, of Itasca, were charged after police searched Itasca Tobacco, 1215 W. Irving Park Road, according to a news release.
Narcotics investigators with the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group said they informed Patel, the store manager, late last year of a state law change in January banning synthetic marijuana, and he signed a document stating he understood.
In February, officers learned Itasca Tobacco was again selling the drug, police said. They said they subsequently conducted a series of undercover purchases before executing a search warrant Monday.
DuMeg Director Matt Gainer said police seized about 75 grams of synthetic pot. He said Patel stored the inventory off-site and did not display it inside the store but sold it to interested customers.
Patel, of the 2000 block of Pine Street, was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, a felony typically punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Barker, of the 6N400 block of Lloyd Street, was charged with felony cocaine possession and misdemeanor obstructing police for allegedly interfering with the search.
DuPage County Judge Elizabeth Sexton set bail Tuesday at $30,000 for Patel and $40,000 for Barker, who has prior convictions for armed robbery and is facing an unrelated driving under the influence charge in DuPage.
Medical marijuana bust leads to arrests at Lombard hotel
By Annemarie Mannion
A Lombard man and two California men have been arrested on charges related to trafficking approximately 80 pounds of medical marijuana.
Steve Loan, director of DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group (DuMeg) said Tuesday the arrests were made April 18 after the agency was notified by Illinois State Police that they had stopped a car on the Stevenson Expressway, I-55, driven by the two men from California and carrying the cannabis.
“We decided to do a controlled delivery to see who was on the receiving end,” Loan said.
The car was driven to a Lombard hotel where the sting took place. Loan said the men had arranged to leave the marijuana at the hotel, but that the men were never to meet face-to-face.
Julian Iannino, 23, of 1028 S. Fairview St. in Lombard, Steven Brooks, 21, of Monterra, Calif. and Eric Krzywicki, 21, of Redding, Calif., were each charged with one count of possession of cannabis with intent to deliver.
Loan said the street value of the drugs is about $350,000. He said the agency is noticing an increase in trafficking of medical marijuana.
“It’s a high grade (cannabis),” he said. “The medical marijuana is not being used to ease pain and suffering. It’s being trafficked.”
A DuPage County judge set bond April 19 at $350,000 each for Brooks and Krzywicki and at $750,000 for Iannino.
Glen Ellyn restaurateur charged in $500,000 cocaine deal with cops
By Josh Stockinger
A judge set bail at $1.5 million Friday for a Glen Ellyn restaurant owner accused of negotiating a $500,000 cocaine deal with undercover police officers.
Venustiano Calderon, 45, of Lombard, was among seven people arrested as they tried to carry out the transaction about 8 a.m. Thursday at La Playa Cantina, 690 Roosevelt Road, prosecutors said.
Authorities say Calderon agreed to sell 15 kilograms to undercover officers from the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group (DuMeg) at a price of $33,000 each.
He and six associates who acted as couriers, drivers and security were arrested after displaying some of the drugs during an arranged meeting, said Assistant State’s Attorney Audrey Anderson in bond court.
“The defendant later admitted he was selling the cocaine because he needed money,” she told DuPage County Judge Michael Wolfe.
Anderson said Calderon came under investigation a few weeks ago, and officers received court approval to record their conversations after he provided two samples of cocaine.
On Monday, she said, Calderon agreed to supply officers with nearly $500,000 worth of the drug, which was to be exchanged for money, one kilogram at a time at the restaurant on Thursday.
Police ended up seizing four kilograms and two handguns, including one from Calderon’s home on the 500 block of East 13th Place, authorities said. Anderson said most of Calderon’s associates later confessed they were to be paid $500 for each kilogram that was successfully sold.
DuMeg Director Steve Loan said the operation involved the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Illinois State Police and the Addison, Glen Ellyn, Lombard, and Wood Dale police departments.
“We’re happy because we’ve been working hard to stop the pipeline of drugs coming from Cook County across the line into DuPage, which is exactly what this was,” Loan said. “We’re trying to plug up all the pipelines we can.”
Calderon did not address the charges in court Thursday, but said he and a brother own the restaurant.
“I do have a restaurant,” Calderon said through a Spanish interpreter, “but it was slow and I didn’t have money to pay bills.”
In addition to Calderon, those charged with delivery of a controlled substance were: Oscar A. Colin, 26, of Cicero; Marciano M. Diaz, 41, of Chicago; Alfredo Garcia, 35, of Bolingbrook; Luis Sanchez, 30, of Chicago; Salma M. Sanchez-Hernandez, 22, of Cicero, and Luz Vidal, 33, of Chicago.
Wolfe set bails ranging from $750,000 to $1 million for each of Calderon’s co-defendants. All seven suspects remained in the county jail Friday.
Attempts to reach La Playa Cantina for comment were unsuccessful Friday. The restaurant’s listed phone number apparently was disconnected.
Two charged in $2 million DuPage cocaine bust
A woman accused of running drugs and her driver were held Monday on $1 million cash bonds after authorities say they found 20 kilograms of cocaine during a weekend traffic stop in Willowbrook.
Fernando A. Rivera and Melissa Zambrano, both 29, were in DuPage County jail on charges of cocaine trafficking and delivery or possession of a controlled substance. Each must come up with the full amount of the bond to be freed.
Prosecutors said the pair was pulled over just before midnight Saturday on I-55 at Route 83 after narcotics investigators learned of a large shipment of cocaine bound for the area. A subsequent search uncovered the cocaine — valued on the street at $2 million — in two hidden compartments inside the vehicle, Assistant State’s Attorney Audrey Anderson said.
She said Zambrano, who identified herself in bond court as a mother of four, later confessed that she has been running drugs between Illinois and California for about three months. She told police she was paid between $4,000 and $12,000 to take large sums of cash out west and return with cocaine, Anderson said.
Steve Loan, director of the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group, which has an ongoing investigation into the case, said the drugs originated outside of the country.
“It was definitely a sizeable bust with ties to a Mexican drug trafficking organization,” he said. “Even though she (Zambrano) was coming through California, the drugs came from Mexico.”
Judge Michael Wolfe ordered the cash bonds for Zambrano, of the 500 block of East Gunderson Drive in Carol Stream, and Rivera, of Midlothian. Should the defendants post bond, he said, they also must prove the money comes from legitimate sources and not the drug trade.
In addition to her drug case, prosecutors said, Zambrano faces misdemeanor charges of endangering the health or life of a child for allowing a 14-year-old to drive her vehicle on March 18 in Addison while a 2-year-old was in the back seat. She also is accused in that case of leaving a 6-year-old unattended in her vehicle for more than 10 minutes, according to court records.
Authorities said Rivera and Zambrano each could potentially face up to 120 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.