Nineteen people have been charged in Lake County after a state's attorney investigation uncovered a drug ring at least partially operated out of two pizza parlors.
Despite their prior criminal history, one of three brothers accused of running a drug ring out of a pair of family-owned suburban pizza parlors on Friday said the charges against them are "ridiculous."
"I'm actually getting locked up right now," Elias Papandreou, 27, said via telephone from the Lake County Jail. "If anybody can help us out, please do so. I'm innocent. This is ridiculous."
But authorities said Papandreou and two of his brothers, Jack and Kostatino "Gus" Papandreou, were selling narcotics, including cocaine, pot, heroin and ecstasy, out of Jack’s Pizza and Burgers, at 1000 N. Green Bay Road in Waukegan, and Jack’s Pizza and Burgers, at 500 Center St. in Grayslake.
In some cases, the restaurants and even delivery vehicles were used to transfer drugs, said Waukegan Police Chief Daniel Greathouse.
"One of the brothers did not have the drugs that he needed at the one location, in Grayslake, so he contacted the brother in the Waukegan store and they drove the drugs in their company vehicle, along with pops and pizza over there," explained Greathouse.
The trio is among the 19 people indicted Thursday as part of a lengthy investigation. Police said an estimated $160,000 worth of drugs, including almost five pounds of cocaine, exchanged hands in Lake County during the time cops infiltrated the alleged drug ring six months ago.
Each of the 19 was charged with criminal drug conspiracy and is held on $500,000 bond.
The brothers had all previously been convicted and served time on drug charges. Jack Papandreou is already in federal custody.
Police said they spent about six months on this investigation. The brothers fired up their restaurant ring at least two years ago, authorities said.
Anna Papandreou said the parlors were part of a reputable, family-owned business. She claims police have targeted her sons for past indiscretions.
"Tell me where the drugs are. Tell me where's the money at? That's what I want to know," she said.
Elias Papandreou's girlfriend, Rachel Margelos, also defended the family.
"Instead of busting the real drug dealers out there, and the people in Waukegan and the crackhouses, you know, they go after a family that they want to destroy and make it look like Tony Soprano or something," she said.
Greathouse said he's confident that the bust will disrupt the distribution of drug dealers throughout the county.