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Feds take on Mexico's Zetas cartel in Chicago-based prosecution

More than $9 million was seized from a suspected Zetas stash house on the Southwest Side in April 2010.

Federal authorities Wednesday announced their first prosecution in Chicago of suspected drug traffickers allegedly linked to Mexico’s notorious Zetas drug cartel.

The two-year case by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI is the latest in a series of prosecutions alleging Chicago is a hub of drug trafficking for cartels, which are blamed for tens of thousands of murders along the northern border of Mexico and for narcotics-related violence here.

Already, leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel – the Zetas’ rivals – face trial in Chicago next year on charges of importing tons of cocaine and heroin here on trains, trucks, submarines, ships and 747s. Also in federal court, a former Chicago cop is on trial for allegedly spending a decade as a partner in crime with a cartel-linked drug trafficker.

On Wednesday, authorities announced they have charged 20 people, including five alleged members of a Chicago-based cell of Zetas. They also seized nearly $13 million in cash and 250 kilograms of cocaine in 2010. The alleged drug pipeline stretched from Chicago to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, authorities said.

Among those charged was Eduardo Trevino, believed to be the uncle of Miguel Trevino – a top Zeta leader known as Z-40. Eduardo Trevino, of Nuevo Laredo, directed the group’s transportation of drug money from Chicago to Mexico, authorities said. He and four other defendants remain fugitives.

In a prepared statement, Robert Grant, head of the FBI in Chicago, called the indictment a “wake-up call to law enforcement throughout the state.”