17 Defendants Charged in Drug Trafficking Probe Targeting Heroin and Cocaine Sales in Chicago
CHICAGO (STL.News) A joint federal and local drug trafficking investigation has resulted in federal charges against 17 individuals for distributing or attempting to distribute heroin and cocaine in Chicago.
During the multi-year probe, dubbed “Operation Tragic Blow,” law enforcement seized multiple kilograms of heroin and cocaine, including a 14-kilogram cocaine seizure in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood and a two-kilogram heroin seizure in a high-rise apartment building in Chicago’s Buena Park neighborhood. The joint federal and local investigation, led by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and the Chicago Police Department, utilized extensive undercover and covert surveillance operations to shut down the defendants’ drug trafficking activities.
Many of the 17 federal defendants were arrested Wednesday and have begun making initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Chicago. In addition to the 17 federal defendants, two other individuals were charged in state court as part of this investigation.
The federal charges were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Angie Salazar, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of HSI; and David Brown, Superintendent of CPD. Substantial assistance was provided by the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron Bond, Erin Kelly, and Brian Kerwin represent the government.
This investigation is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.
Charged with a federal drug offense are: YARNELL ALLEN, 41, of Dolton, Ill.; ULISES AVINA, 32, of Chicago; OSCAR BALDERAMA, 42, of Chicago; CELESTINO BARAHONA-SERRANO, 38, of Chicago; DIEGO GALEANA-GONZAGA, 35, of Mexico; MARGARITO GALEANA-GOMEZ, 36, of Mexico; JOSE GONZAGA, 58, of Chicago; RAFAEL MEDELLIN, JR., 32, of Chicago; RICHARD C. RINCON, 39, of Oak Lawn, Ill.; JUAN ROSAS-CABRERA, 31, of Mexico; SERGIO SANCHEZ-CHAVEZ, 36, of Mexico; FRANCISCO SANCHEZ-YANEZ, 32, of Chicago; ANTONIO SEGURA, 39, of Oak Lawn, Ill.; JORGE A. VALDEZ, 40, of Chicago; VIRGINIA VAZQUEZ-PEREZ, 37, of Cicero, Ill.; DELVIN WILLIAMS, 42, of Chicago; and RAFAEL ZARCO-PICAZO, 33, of Chicago.
According to criminal complaints unsealed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Zarco-Picazo sold distribution levels of cocaine to Jorge Valdez, who in turn re-sold it in smaller quantities to customers in Chicago. Law enforcement on Jan. 30, 2021, seized 14 kilograms of cocaine from Zarco-Picazo’s Nissan Z sedan, which was parked at a residence in the 2300 block of North Menard Avenue in Chicago, the charges allege. The cocaine was packed into several bricks and hidden behind a speaker console, the complaint states.
The complaint also describes the heroin seizure in the high-rise apartment building in the 4200 block of North Marine Drive in Chicago. Galeana-Gomez and Gonzaga had allegedly conspired to sell nearly two kilograms of heroin to an undercover law enforcement officer and an individual who was surreptitiously cooperating with law enforcement. On the afternoon of Sept. 17, 2020, Gonzaga attempted to sell the heroin, which was wrapped in two vacuum-sealed bricks, to the undercover officer and the cooperating individual in the building’s underground parking garage. Law enforcement arrested Gonzaga and then searched two apartments on the 27th-floor of the building, where they discovered supplies used to package narcotics, including a heat sealer, vacuum sealer rolls, and a digital scale, the complaint states.
Other alleged illicit transactions cited in the charges include a two-kilogram cocaine deal on April 30, 2020, involving Segura and Allen behind a residence in the 6100 block of South Talman Avenue in Chicago’s Chicago Lawn neighborhood, and a kilogram of heroin distributed by Galeana-Gonzaga in two separate deliveries – 720 grams to Williams at an apartment building in the Chicago suburb of Brookfield, and 280 grams to Vazquez-Perez in a vehicle in the 2900 block of North Cicero Avenue in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood.
The public is reminded that a complaint contains only charges and is 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.