Feds target Chicago-area drug dealers in ‘Operation Over the Top’

SHARE Feds target Chicago-area drug dealers in ‘Operation Over the Top’
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Sun-Times file photo

File photo

A year-long drug investigation led to the arrest of 19 people and the seizure of more than 190 kilograms of heroin in the Chicago area, federal authorities announced Tuesday.

“Operation Over the Top” was led by the DEA, spanned more than a year and resulted in drug charges against 19 people in federal court in Chicago, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced Tuesday. During the investigation, authorities shut down a stash house in Bensenville. The criminal activity was uncovered through the use of wiretapped cellphones, undercover drug purchase and extensive surveillance.

Julio Cesar Flores Saenz, 29, was arrested last month with about 80 kilograms of heroin hidden in his Hanover Park home and a vehicle compartment, according to federal prosecutors. In October 2016, Flores Saenz distributed four kilograms of heroin to 30-year-old Ramon Garcia of California, and two kilograms to 33-year-old Victor Manuel Vazquez-Morales of Pennsylvania.

In December 2016, 36-year-old Noel Miranda of Chicago sold a kilogram of heroin to a buyer outside the Ford City Mall, and a few weeks later tried to obtain seven-and-a-half more kilograms, according to prosecutors.

The deals were set up by Miranda’s cousin, 30-year-old Luis Miranda of Chicago, who was arrested last month with a kilogram of heroin in his possession, prosecutors said.

Flores Saenz and both Mirandas are each charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.

Juan Contreras, 35, of Aurora; and 39-year-old Jesus Alberto Martinez-Reyes of Schiller Park led a separate faction of drug ring which unloaded heroin at warehouses in Naperville, Sugar Groves and St. Charles, prosecutors allege. The heroin had been shipped from Mexico in secret compartments on semi trucks.

Contreras’ brother, 39-year-old Davis Contreras of Aurora; and his nephew, 32-year-old Edgar Rodriguez Contreras of Aurora; along with Martinez-Reyes and Hedilberto Vega-Rocha, 47, of Schiller Park pleaded guilty earlier this year to their roles in the distribution conspiracy.

Juan Contreras is set to go to trial Oct. 16 before U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve.

A 24-year-old Bensenville man who ran a stash house where heroin and cash from drug sales were stored has also been charged, according to prosecutors. Jesus Salgado’s drug-dealing operation was overseen by his father, 54-year-old Lorenzo Salgado, who lives in Mexico. Law enforcement recorded the father and son’s phone conversations, during which they discussed drug sales, prosecutors said.

Salgado’s girlfriend, 26-year-old Ruby Joy Buenaventura of Chicago, helped him deliver drugs to customers in the area after having the deal arranged from Mexico by Salgado’s father, prosecutors allege. One of the deals went down in the parking lot of a Bensenville strip mall in May 2016, when Salgado delivered two kilograms of heroin to 22-year-old Sergio Arevalo-Gomez of Chicago. Arevalo-Gomez pleaded guilty earlier this year to distribution of a controlled substance, and is scheduled to be sentenced May 2.

An Oklahoma man who worked as courier for the Salgado family, 39-year-old Jose Luis Rivera Jr., was charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of a controlled substance.

The elder Salgado is considered a fugitive, according to prosecutors. The younger Salgado and Rivera Jr. are scheduled to appear in court for a status hearing May 3.

Others charged in “Operation Over the Top” include:

  • Alexander Lagunas, 26, of Midlothian;
  • Sylvia Jimenez-Celedon, 37, of Eagle Pass, Texas;
  • Willie G. Powell Jr., 47, of Sandstone, Minn.; and
  • Monique Fortney, 37, of Dearborn Heights, Michigan.
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