Pablo Vega Cuevas, alleged leader of a Mexican drug cartel’s Chicago operation, was busted this week in an investigation that seized 150 pounds of heroin and 20 pounds of cocaine since August 2013.
The accused kingpin, with ties to the Guerrero Unidos cartel, is the most prominent of eight suspects named this week by the U.S. Attorney in Chicago.
The 40-year-old Aurora, Illinois, resident and his brother-in-law, Alexander Figueroa, 37, were arrested on the morning of December 9 in southeast Oklahoma. Three others were arrested in Chicago, while three defendants remain at large.
Details of the operation are revealed in a newly unsealed, 133-page criminal complaint, which you can read above.
Here’s what you need to know about Pablo Vega Cuevas and the investigation that took him down.
1. Cuevas Used Passenger Buses to Bring Drugs Into the U.S., According to Cops
In the 131-page complaint that has been unsealed, Cuevas is accused of using his underworld contacts in Mexico to import hundreds of pounds of heroin and cocaine to Illinois. Cuevas and his cronies are believed to have used passenger buses that cross the border into the U.S. to bring in the drugs and cash. Agents from the DEA also believe that a business tied to Cuevas, a salon called Salude Bienstar in Aurora, was used in the operation. When Cuevas was arrested, cops seized $500,000 in cash.
2. Cuevas’ Gang Allegedly Sold the Drugs Wholesale
Cuevas and his gang were allegedly in the business of selling the drugs wholesale to other dealers in Illinois. The city of Aurora where the operation was based is just 40 miles west of Chicago. Authorities allege that the drugs were held in warehouses in Aurora and in another Illinois city, Batavia. In a press release, Dennis Wichern of the DEA said:
This operation strikes at a major Mexican drug trafficking organization that is alleged to have routinely distributed large quantities of heroin and cocaine throughout the Midwest. These arrests will have a significant impact on the supply and distribution of heroin and cocaine in the Chicago area.
Cuevas is believed to have collected the money taken in from the drug deals and given it to the feared Guerrero Unidos drug cartel in Mexico.
3. Three Other Suspects in the Case Are Still at-Large
Cuevas, along with his brother-in-law, Alexander Figueroa, were both arrested in Oklahoma but both were transferred to Illinois shortly afterwards. Also arrested in relation to the case were Roberto Sanchez, 39, of Chicago, Isaias Mandujano, 29, of Rockford, Illinois, and Eliseo Pereria, 50, of Aurora. Three people remain at large in the case, Wilfredo Flores-Santos, 43, of North Aurora, Jose Rodriguez, 31, of Chicago; and Arturo Martinez, 33, who is believed to be in Mexico.
4. The Investigation Has Been Building Since August 2013
The complaint says that in August 2013, cops discovered $200,000 in cash after a traffic stop in Chicago. This prompted police to search the man’s home where officers found heroin and cocaine as well as $231,000. That man admitted to cops that the was working for Cuevas’s gang. All of those investigated in the case are facing charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin between August 2013 and November 2014. Although Isaias Mandujano faces a different charge of intent to distribute heroin.
5. Cuevas’ Gang Are Believed to Be Connected to the Iguala Student Kidnappings
The Guerreros Unidos are believed to have been behind the massacre of college students near the city of Iguala in the western part of Mexico. You can watch a documentary about the kidnapping above. The group’s leader in Mexico, Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, has been arrested by authorities in the region. The Borderland Beat, a blog that covers the cartels, reported in October 2014 that the Unidos are regarded as a cell of a larger cartel, La Familia Michoacana. The blog adds that the Unidos are larger than most cells, mainly due to its ability to cultivate heroin and ability to distribute it in Chicago.