CHICAGO — Three individuals have been arrested 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.
Authorities said that last Wednesday, federal agents discovered 80 kilograms of cocaine in a 2015 Toyota Highlander in Chicago’s River North neighborhood and another 20 kilograms of the drug in a hotel room in the city’s Gold Coast neighborhood. 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 a day later in the Indianapolis area.
Federal agents on Monday obtained a warrant to seize the private plane, a Bombardier Challenger 600, that they had placed under surveillance and believe is part of the drug smuggling operation.
According to the charges, Vazquez-Gamez arrived on the plane from Houston and loaded suitcases full of cocaine into a black 2020 Lincoln Navigator sport-utility vehicle. Vazquez-Gamez and others helped remove the suitcases containing the drugs from the plane, entered the Lincoln, and were driven to a hotel in downtown Chicago, the complaints state.
Outside the hotel, Vazquez-Gamez loaded some of the suitcases into the 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 on where to meet Vazquez-Gamez to pick up the cocaine.
Federal agents did not place a value on the bust but, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as of 2019 (the latest stats available) and depending on the purity of the substance, [estimates of the wholesale value of the bust] would be approximately $2.9m - $4 million with a street value near $8 million.