A month after $250,000 worth of heroin disappeared from a Will County sheriff’s evidence locker, attorneys for the man police allegedly seized it from want prosecutors to cough it up.
The public defender’s office also wants a speedy trial for 41-year-old Jose Zamago-Mena of California. He was arrested on drug charges in February after officers stopped him on Interstate 55 and Illinois 59. His attorney made both requests in late October, shortly after news of the missing heroin broke.
The Will County state’s attorney’s office still plans to prosecute Zamago-Mena, a spokesman said, and it’s supposed to respond to his motions Tuesday.
Sheriff’s officials said the material taken from his truck has already tested positive for heroin, but Zamago-Mena said in court records he wants it tested at an independent lab. He’s also asking for notes and audio/video recordings of his arrest and the evidence.
Meanwhile, the union representing county sheriff’s deputies has hired Joliet defense attorney Jeff Tomczak to represent its members while the FBI and state police continue their investigation into the missing evidence.
“I just want to make sure our membership has a voice and is protected through this process,” said Steve Hunter, the union’s president.
Police realized the heroin was gone Oct. 14 after they discovered a break-in at a fenced-in impound lot at the sheriff’s Laraway Road complex. Three kilograms of the drug, each with an estimated street value of $90,000, were stolen.
The metal shipping container it was taken from handles overflow from the sheriff’s main storage area. It’s monitored by cameras and sealed with a high-tech lock. That led Deputy Chief Ken Kaupas to say last month “internal suspects” couldn’t be ruled out.
“With the security in place, it’s fair to say this wouldn’t be two kids jumping the fence with a pair of bolt cutters getting in there,” Kaupas said at the time.
But Hunter, who wouldn’t go into the facts of the case, said that’s exactly what this could turn out to be.
“To me, it looks like it’s just a random burglary,” Hunter said, “and they found the golden goose.”
Records show the drugs were moved to the evidence locker by Jana Schaeffer, officials said. She’s a civilian employee and daughter of Sheriff Paul Kaupas. Her husband, Lt. Brett Schaeffer, also leads the Will County gang unit that nabbed Zamago-Mena.
Ken Kaupas, another relative of the sheriff, declined to talk about the specifics of the case because of the ongoing investigation. But he said he’d “hope and pray that this is not an inside job.”
“We certainly hope that the FBI and the state police can get to the bottom of whoever’s responsible,” Ken Kaupas said
Hunter said just one member of his union has been interviewed about the missing drugs so far, but other interviews have been scheduled. It bothered officers to have suspicion cast on their ranks early on, he said, but time has healed some of those wounds.
“These people are top-notch employees,” Hunter said. “They do a very good job for the sheriff.”