News Release
Date: June 14, 2010
Contact: Will Taylor
Number: 312-886-2597

Nationwide “Project Deliverance” Results In Nine Defendants
Charged In Chicago

More than 40 kilograms of heroin and 8 kilograms of cocaine seized

JUN 14 -- (Chicago) - Nine defendants are facing federal narcotics charges in Chicago as part of“Project Deliverance,” a multi-jurisdictional investigation that targeted the transportation infrastructure of Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the United States, especially along the Southwest border, federal law enforcement officials announced today. Locally, eight of the nine defendants have been arrested since late April and charged in four separate criminal complaints. During the Chicago portion of the investigation, federal agents and local law enforcement partners seized approximately 44 kilograms of heroin, approximately 8 kilograms of cocaine, tens of thousands of dollars and a handgun.

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Timothy J. McCormick, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Chicago, announced the local charges. The Chicago Police Department, as well as the Aurora and Oak Lawn police departments, also assisted in the investigation. In Washington today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the arrest of more than 2,200 individuals on narcotics-related charges in the United States, the seizure of more than 74.1 tons of illegal drugs, and the seizure of $154 million dollars is suspected drug proceeds, as part of the 22-month multi-agency investigation conducted by the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.)

“DEA Chicago is committed to cutting off the supply of illegal drugs destined for distribution in the streets of our communities,” Mr. McCormick said. “Through coordinated investigations such as Project Deliverance, law enforcement is able to collectively stand against those alleged to facilitate the movement of illegal drugs and the proceeds derived from their sales.”

One criminal complaint charges Ignacio Cruz, Jr., 33, of Chicago, with conspiracy to possess and distribute heroin in connection with a seizure of 37 kilograms of heroin destined for Chicago. The shipment had been seized from a hidden compartment under the floor of a vehicle, which was interdicted on May 28 at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint approximately 29 miles north of Laredo, Tex.

A separate complaint charges Antonio Figueroa with conspiracy to possess and distribute the 37 kilograms of heroin in Chicago. Following Figueroa’s arrest, agents seized approximately $67,000 in cash and a handgun with ammunition in the course of the investigation.

In late April, six defendants were charged together with conspiring since February this year to possess and distribute multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine. This complaint alleges that Antonio Mendoza, 26, was the head of the Chicago area cell of a Mexican-based drug trafficking organization and accepted narcotics from the organization for distribution to various wholesale dealers in the Chicago area. Co-defendants Adolfo Lopez-Garcia, 33, and his brother, Gonzalo Lopez-Garcia, 30, allegedly supplied Mendoza with wholesale amounts of cocaine on a “fronted” basis, meaning the cocaine would be paid for with proceeds from subsequent sales. Co-defendants Roberto Sandoval-Velazco, 23, and Manuel Chavez, who remains a fugitive, allegedly assisted Mendoza’s distribution cell. Co-defendant Corey Scott, 38, allegedly was a customer of the Mendoza cell who received cocaine and heroin on a fronted basis. Another alleged customer, Askia Eubanks, 30, of Richton Park, was arrested in early May and charged with narcotics distribution conspiracy in a separate complaint.

All eight defendants who were arrested here remain detained in federal custody without bond pending further proceedings in U.S. District Court.

The Mendoza complaint alleges that 4.5 kilograms of heroin destined for the Mendoza-led cell in Chicago was seized on Feb. 20, 2010, in Junction City, Kan., prompting Mendoza to empty a stash house he maintained in the 3000 block of West Fargo in Chicago. Subsequently, Mendoza, Chavez, and Sandoval-Velazco allegedly continued to distribute cocaine, supplied by Adolfo Lopez- Garcia, in the Chicago area. On April 12, 2010, Adolfo Lopez-Garcia allegedly delivered a car containing 30 kilos of cocaine to Mendoza and Sandoval-Velazco. Later that same day, Chicago police stopped a car driven by Scott and seized 8 kilos of cocaine and 3 kilos of heroin, according to the charges.

The coordinated nationwide takedown is part of the Justice Department’s Southwest Border Strategy, announced in March 2009, which uses federal task forces that bring together federal prosecutors with federal, state and local law enforcement components to identify, disrupt and dismantle the Mexican drug cartels through investigation, prosecution and extradition of their key leaders and facilitators, and seizure and forfeiture of their assets.

The investigative efforts in Project Deliverance were coordinated by the multi-agency Special Operations Division, comprised of agents and analysts from the DEA, FBI, ICE, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service and ATF, as well as attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section. More than 300 federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies contributed investigative and prosecutorial resources to Project Deliverance, many of which were through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Forces and the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETFs.) Significant assistance for Project Deliverance was also provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.

The narcotics distribution conspiracy charges against all nine Chicago defendants carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life imprisonment and a $4 million fine. If convicted, the Court would determine a reasonable sentence to impose under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. Each defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.