Federal Law Enforcement in Chicago Seize Private Plane and 100 Kilograms of Cocaine
Three Defendants Arrested as Part of Investigation of Suspected Mexico-to-Chicago Drug Pipeline
CHICAGO — Robert J. Bell, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Chicago Division, and John R. Lausch, Jr., U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois announced the arrests of three individuals on federal charges as part of an investigation that disrupted a suspected Mexico-to-Chicago drug pipeline and resulted in government seizures of a private plane and 100 kilograms of cocaine.
Federal agents on Wednesday discovered 80 kilograms of cocaine in a vehicle in Chicago’s River North neighborhood and another 20 kilograms of the drug in a hotel room in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood, according to criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The cocaine had allegedly been transported to the Chicago area earlier Wednesday via private plane from Toluca, Mexico, via Houston, Texas. The plane arrived at Gary/Chicago International Airport in Gary, Indiana, and the drugs were driven in suitcases to downtown Chicago, the charges allege.
Two of the defendants – Sebastian Vazquez-Gamez, 30, of Toluca de Lerdo, Mexico, and Rodrigo Alexis Jimenez-Perez, 25, of Columbus, Indiana – were arrested Wednesday in downtown Chicago, while the third defendant – Sergio Ivan Blas, 39, of Indianapolis, Indiana – was arrested Thursday in the Indianapolis area. Federal agents today obtained a warrant to seize the private plane, a Bombardier Challenger 600.
A detention hearing for Jimenez-Perez is scheduled for Nov. 9, 2021, at 1 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel A. Fuentes in Chicago. Vazquez-Gamez is set to appear for a detention hearing before Judge Fuentes on Nov. 10, 2021, at 3 p.m. Blas is scheduled to make his initial court appearance on Nov. 9, 2021, in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Indiana.
Joining Special Agent in Charge Bell and U.S. Attorney Lausch in the announcement were Angie Salazar, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago office of Homeland Security Investigations, and Justin Campbell, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. Substantial assistance was provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana, and the Chicago Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ashley Chung and Andrew Erskine represent the government.
According to the charges, Vazquez-Gamez arrived on the plane from Houston and loaded suitcases full of cocaine into a Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicle. Vazquez-Gamez and others from the plane entered the SUV and were driven to the hotel in Chicago, the complaints state. Outside the hotel, Vazquez-Gamez loaded some of the suitcases into a Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle driven by Jimenez-Perez, the charges allege. Agents pulled over the Toyota a few blocks away, seized the suitcases containing 80 kilograms of cocaine, and arrested Jimenez-Perez. Agents later arrested Vazquez-Gamez in his hotel room, where they seized the other 20 kilograms of cocaine, the charges allege.
The complaint against Blas accuses him of directing Jimenez-Perez where to meet Vazquez-Gamez to pick up the cocaine.
The public is reminded that complaints contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the court must impose reasonable sentences under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.