By Bob Uphues
A Riverside man swept up by federal agents in January has been linked to a large drug trafficking operation that distributed cocaine, heroin and fentanyl on Chicago's Northwest Side and in the suburbs.
The U.S. Attorney's Office on July 27 announced five arrests, including a pair of Chicago men, Javier Moreno, 49, and Richard Alvarado, 28, who allegedly served as wholesale distributors of heroin and cocaine.
According to a Department of Justice press release, the two would sell the drugs to middlemen, like Riverside resident Carlos Fuentes, 40.
Fuentes, according to the criminal complaint against him, was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Dec. 21, 2016, because he was in the country illegally and was subject to deportation after a felony conviction.
DEA agents interviewed Fuentes when he was in ICE custody, and he reportedly told those agents that he'd been involved in drug trafficking in Illinois since 2004. He was convicted of drug trafficking charges in 2011 and was sentenced to 180 days in prison.
After getting out of prison, according to the complaint, Fuentes continued selling cocaine and heroin up until the day before he was detained by ICE. On that day, according to the complaint, Fuentes had sold 5 kilos of cocaine and 1 kilo of heroin to a customer from Decatur.
Fuentes was arrested while in ICE custody in January for his alleged role in the drug operation. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 16 for conspiring to distribute 5 kilos of cocaine from his Riverside stash house in early 2016. Fuentes has pleaded not guilty, but remains in federal custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.
The federal complaint says Fuentes conspired with others to transport drugs from Mexico to Chicago by placing the drugs inside hidden compartments in refrigerated semi-trailers.
Fuentes used a rental home on the 200 block of Nuttall Road in Riverside as a "stash house," according to the complaint and distributed the drugs using a system of "runners." Fuentes and his family lived at another location in Riverside, according to Riverside police.
Prosecutors said the investigation into the drug trafficking operation, which Fuentes was just a part, lasted more than two years and resulted in the seizure of 52 kilos of cocaine, 45 kilos of heroin, more than 13 kilos of fentanyl and a pound of methamphetamine.
In all, federal agents have arrested 10 men they say were involved in the drug trafficking operation. Three others remain at large and are considered fugitives.