07/10/2007

Ill. police seize 400 kilos of cocaine

By Hal Dardick
The Chicago Tribune

WILL COUNTY, Ill. A huge amount of cocaine disguised as marbled meat was seized Monday in Will County, sheriff's police said.

Bail was set at $20 million each for two men who, police said, had 400 kilos of cocaine in their possession. Sheriff Paul Kaupas estimated that the drugs had a street value of about $80 million.

"I've been a judge for more than 20 years, and I've never had a case where anyone was arrested where this alleged amount of drugs was involved," said Circuit Judge Robert Lorz, who set bail for Edgar Lopez, 27, of Chicago and Luis Fernandez, 24, of Joliet.

The men are charged with illegal possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.

The sheriff's police's Gang Suppression Unit found the cocaine Monday afternoon in Lockport Township, hidden in boxes labeled with the name of a meat company.

It was in plastic kilo-size packages with reddish lines running across their white surface that made them look like the fat on marbled meat, Kaupas said.

"I think it gives new meaning to 'where's the beef,' " State's Atty. James Glasgow said.

Most of the cocaine was found at a car-repair shop in the 3100 block of State Street, Kaupas said.

Lopez, of the 3000 block of South Christiana Avenue in Chicago, was arrested after police stopped him driving a tow truck that contained 70 kilos, authorities said. Another 330 kilos were found in the shop.

After arresting Lopez, police returned to the car-repair shop, where they spotted four men in the building. One of the four -- who identified himself as Fernandez and an illegal immigrant -- was arrested after police found an ounce of cocaine in his pocket, Kaupas said.

The other three men were fingerprinted, photographed and released pending a continuing investigation because the boxes they were seen handling were closed and had no outward indications of what they contained, Glasgow said.

Will County officials notified the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration because the investigation "possibly will take us out of Will County or the State of Illinois," Kaupas said.

Kaupas said gang networks are using locations at the edges of suburbia to distribute drugs in the Chicago area.

"Other people are coming from Chicago to make a pickup," he said.

Copyright 2007 Chicago Tribune

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