Eighteen Defendants Charged in Ongoing Investigation; Cocaine, Heroin, and Nearly $1 Million in Cash Seized
SPRINGFIELD, IL—A Paxton, Illinois man, Eddi Ramirez, 30, has been charged as a central figure in an investigation of cocaine trafficking networks allegedly responsible for distributing large amounts of cocaine in Central Illinois, specifically, Springfield and Decatur. Ramirez, aka “Migo,” is charged in a criminal complaint along with eight other defendants; separate complaints charge six others, all with alleged ties to Ramirez. Three additional defendants were previously charged. The ongoing investigation has resulted in the seizure of more than 10 kilograms of cocaine, three kilograms of heroin, and approximately $855,716 in cash; identification of an alleged drug “stash house” at 76 E. Court Street, in Decatur, Illinois, and arrests in Memphis, Tennessee; Texas; and Central Illinois.
The charges are the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation known as Operation Tres Ciudades (Three Cities) (Springfield, Decatur, and Paxton), announced today by U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis, Central District of Illinois; with Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser; and participating task force agencies including Glenn Haas, Resident Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Springfield Resident Office; David A. Ford, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Division; Chief Todd Walker, Decatur Police Department; Chief Robert Williams, Springfield Police Department; the Illinois State Police, represented by Master Sergeant Aaron Fullington, Central Illinois Enforcement Group; the Illinois Attorney General’s Office; and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Bass is prosecuting the cases in the Central District of Illinois, Springfield, and Urbana Divisions. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations also provided assistance in the investigation.
Operation Tres Ciudades defendants charged in federal criminal complaints include:
■Eddi Ramirez, aka “Migo,” 30, of the 200 block of E. Pine Street, Paxton, Illinois, arrested August 31, 2012, near Staunton, Illinois, after returning from Memphis, Tennessee; ordered detained in federal law enforcement custody. Ramirez’s brother, Jesus, was convicted earlier this month in Sangamon County of two counts of attempted murder of a police officer and single counts of armed violence and possession of more than 900 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver.
■Felipe Quionones, Jr., 31, of Houston, Texas, arrested on August 31, 2012, in Memphis, Tennessee
■Juan H. Vorrath, 55, of Houston, Texas, arrested in Texas, scheduled for initial appearance on October 1, in federal court in Urbana
■Erica Kulak, 23, of Elgin, Illinois, arrested August 31, 2012, in Elgin, Illinois, ordered detained
■Teravena Kapraun, aka “Tera,” “Jen,” 21, of Decatur, Illinois, arrested on September 11; released on bond
■Jourdan Hullinger, 20, of Springfield, Illinois, arrested August 31, released on bond
■Jose Aguilar-Mendez, 21, last known address Decatur, Illinoid, a fugitive
■Juan Alvarado, 31, last known address Decatur, Illinois, a fugitive
■Geraro Gamboa, 20, last known address Rantoul, Illinois, a fugitive
■James Lampley, 55, of the 3700 block of N. Woodford, Decatur, arrested Aug. 31,waived detention; ordered detained
■Leonardo Aldape-Hernandez, 22, of Calumet City, Illinois, arrested September 1; ordered detained
■Guadalupe Onate-Herrera, 28, of the 1500 block of Wentworth Ave., Calumet City, Illinois, arrested September 1; ordered detained
■Alex Gardner, 28, of the 2900 block of S. State St., Springfield, Illinois, arrested September 7, 2012; released on bond on September 13
■Anthony Cunningham, aka “Tone,” 26, of Manor Ct., Springfield, Illinois, arrested September 14; waived detention and ordered detained
■Gabriel Lopez-Saucedo, aka “Cuz,” 27, of Elgin, Illinois, arrested September 18, waived detention; ordered detained
According to the affidavits filed in support of the complaints, the investigation known as Operation Tres Ciudades (Three Cities) began in January 2012. The affidavits provide details of the defendants’ alleged trafficking activities, including providing Ramirez with cocaine; receiving cocaine from Ramirez for distribution; and assisting Ramirez to further the conspiracy to distribute cocaine to others. The affidavits detail numerous incidents and intelligence gathered by law enforcement from sources and surveillance during the course of the investigation:
According to the affidavits, early in the investigation, agents identified an alleged stash house at 76 E. Court Drive, Decatur, Illinois, used by Ramirez and his couriers to store and package cocaine and through which to move money. On numerous occasions, agents observed Ramirez, Hullinger, Kulak, Kapraun, Gamboa, Alvarado, and Aguilar at the residence. Agents observed a pattern of drug trafficking activity at the residence which remained fairly quiet when cocaine was not there, but activity increased significantly when a shipment of cocaine arrived, including visitors in and out at all times of the day and night.
Agents developed information that Ramirez was in contact with Quionones and on March 4, 2012, when agents attempted to interview Quionones as he was leaving a Red Roof Inn in Calumet City. Quionones allegedly discarded a black duffel bag. Officers searched the bag and discovered $245,716 in cash and a metal press used for forming kilogram bricks of cocaine. According to the affidavit, such presses are often used after cocaine is “cut” or diluted with another substance to repackage and make the cocaine appear uncut, in kilogram quantities.
In late March 2012, agents received information that two vehicles allegedly connected to Ramirez were at a Houston residence: a black Pontiac Grand Prix with Illinois license plates, previously owned by Ramirez and registered to Kapraun, used to deliver loads and believed to have a trap in it; and a vehicle rented by Ramirez in Decatur with a Minnesota license plate. According to the affidavit, on March 28, the Grand Prix, driven by Kapraun, was stopped in Bowie County, Texas, by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Kapraun consented to a search of the vehicle, and officers located a trap compartment under the back seat that contained 11 bundles of cash—wrapped in cellophane with fabric softener sheets placed between the cellophane wrapping and the currency—in $10,000 increments, totaling $110,000, and three cell phones.
In April 2012, surveillance and investigative information identified Vorrath, an El Expresso bus driver, as a subject of the investigation, believed to allegedly be transporting drugs for Quionones. On June 10, 2012, an El Expresso bus driven by Vorrath was stopped in Splendora, Montgomery County, Texas. Officers recovered 7,261 grams of cocaine; 3,355 grams of heroin; and 89 grams of black tar heroin inside the driver’s sleeper compartment.
In another incident alleged in the affidavit, on June 25, 2012, agents observed a rental car driven by Kulak at the alleged stash house in Decatur. Agents observed Kulak exit the house and place something in the trunk. She then drove to Springfield and parked in a lot at the Town and Country shopping center, where a Jeep driven by Alex Gardner parked next to Kulak. Gardner entered the car driven by Kulak, and Kulak retrieved a bag from the trunk and provided it to Gardner. When a Springfield police officer activated overhead lights to stop Gardner as he was leaving the parking lot, Gardner’s vehicle turned into the parking lot of the Rocket Stop on S. MacArthur, traveled through the drive-thru lane, pulled around the back out of sight of officers, and eventually stopped. Agents eventually recovered two kilograms of cocaine and a cell phone that were lying on the ground. The Rocket Stop security cameras show the driver throwing a bag out of the driver’s side window into the secured fenced-in area. Agents allegedly recovered fingerprints identified as those of Kulak, Gardner, and Aguilar-Mendez on the outer packaging and those of Saucedo on the inner packaging.
In August 2012, agents received information that Ramirez was going to Calumet City to pick up cocaine. According to the affidavit, Aldape-Hernandez allegedly met Ramirez in the parking lot of a Best Buy in Calumet City where agents observed Aldape exchange bags with Ramirez. On September 1, 2012, Onate-Herrera and Aldape-Hernandez were arrested at a residence in Calumet City where agents recovered approximately $500,000.
In the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint against Lopez-Saucedo, Ramirez allegedly received a kilogram of cocaine from Aldape-Hernandez on August 22, 2012, which Ramirez allegedly sent to Lopez-Saucedo with Kulak. According to the affidavit, agents established surveillance in the area of Kulak’s residence in Elgin and observed Kulak arrive in a rental vehicle and meet with Lopez-Saucedo in the street. Kulak allegedly retrieved an item in a bag from the trunk of her vehicle and handed it to Lopez. Following the exchange, police officers conducted a traffic stop on Lopez and recovered one kilogram of cocaine in a plastic bag from the back seat of Lopez’s vehicle.
Three additional Springfield, Illinois men with ties to Ramirez have previously been charged: Orlandon L. Roberson, 37, of the 1400 block of E. Reynolds Street; Bernardo Shanklin, 31, of the 1300 block of E. Washington St.; and, Michael A. Gant, 32, of the 1200 block of E. Ash Street.
Roberson was indicted on September 12, 2012, on a charge of possession with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of crack cocaine. Roberson was ordered detained and trial has been scheduled on November 6.
Shanklin was charged with two counts of distribution of cocaine and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine in February 2012. On May 30, 2012, Shanklin entered an open plea of guilty to the three counts; sentencing is scheduled on October 18, 2012.
Gant was charged in February 2012 with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Gant pled guilty on May 31, and sentencing is scheduled on October 5.
Ramirez, Quionones, Vorrath, Kulak, Kapraun, Hullinger, Aguilar-Mendez, Alvarado, and Gamboa are each charged in one complaint with conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine from January to August 2012. Aldape-Hernandez and Onate-Herrera are charged in a separate complaint with conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine from January to August 2012. In another complaint, Gabriel Lopez Saucedo is charged with conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine from January to August 2012.
If convicted, the offense of conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine carries a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years to life in prison. If a defendant has one or more prior felony drug convictions, the mandatory minimum penalty is 20 years to life in prison. With two or more prior felony drug convictions, the statutory penalty is life in prison.
Lampley is charged with conspiracy to distribute and distribution of cocaine. If convicted, he faces penalties of 10 years to life in prison.
Gardner is charged in a separate complaint with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute at least 500 grams of cocaine. If convicted, the offense carries a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of five years up to 40 years in prison. If a defendant has one or more prior felony drug convictions, the mandatory minimum penalty is 10 years to life in prison.
Cunningham is charged with distribution of at least 28 grams of crack cocaine. If convicted, the offense carries a statutory mandatory minimum penalty of five years up to 40 years in prison. If a defendant has one or more prior felony drug convictions, the mandatory minimum penalty is 10 years to life in prison.
Members of the public are reminded that a complaint is merely an accusation; the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.