Feds charge 3 men after seizing 220 pounds of cocaine downtown

Federal law enforcement agents arrested three men, seized a private jet, and confiscated about 220 pounds of cocaine from a downtown hotel room and a car they pulled over in River North last week, authorities said. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago said the men are suspected of operating a “Mexico-to-Chicago drug pipeline.”

According to federal complaints, agents began surveilling a Bombardier Challenger 600 jet in October after it flew from Toluca, Mexico, to Gary, Indiana, by way of Houston. It returned to Mexico and flew the same route again last week.

Government photos of the plane investigators seized at Gary/Chicago International Airport and a suitcase containing about one-fifth of the suspected cocaine they recovered. | U.S. Attorney’s Office

Federal authorities watched as Sebastian Vazquez-Gamez, 30, and three other people helped an airport worker unload a large suitcase and a duffel bag into an SUV, the complaint said.

Investigators followed the vehicle as it carried its passengers to a hotel on the 100 block of East Chestnut. Police learned that Vazquez-Gomez checked into the hotel, according to the complaint.

Around 9:14 p.m., undercover agents watched as Vazquez-Gomez flagged down another SUV and helped its driver, Rodrigo Alexis Jimenez-Perez, 25, load two large suitcases into the vehicle, authorities said.

Jimenez-Perez dropped Vazquez-Gomez off on the 500 block of North Rush Street and then continued driving for a short distance until agents pulled him over near the corner of Chicago Avenue and Rush Street.

Investigators arrested both men and allegedly found bricks of cocaine weighing about 176 pounds inside the suitcases in Jimenez-Perez’s car. They found about 44 more pounds of packaged suspect cocaine inside a duffel bag they recovered from Vazquez-Gamez’s hotel room, according to the complaint.

The next day, federal agents arrested Sergio Ivan Blas, 39, in Indianapolis as part of their investigation. He is accused of helping to coordinate the alleged drug delivery.

Blas lives in Indianapolis while Jimenez-Perez lives in Columbus, Indiana, and Vazquez-Gamez lives in Toluca de Lerdo, Mexico, according to the complaint. They are due in federal court for detention hearings this week.

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