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Nearly 11 tons of marijuana were found packed into six railroad cars arriving from Mexico at a South Suburban warehouse in what authorities are calling the largest-ever pot bust in the Chicago-area.
Seven people have been arrested on federal drug conspiracy charges, authorities said.
The shipment, which arrived at a Chicago Heights warehouse earlier this month, had an estimated street value of $22 million, according to a statement from the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.
Charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute marijuana were: Carlos Osvaldo Quintero, 31, aka Carlos Gomez or Miguel Dominguez; his father Martin Quintero, 63; Felipe de Jesus Magana-Campos, 47, aka Padrino; Eduardo Angel Zalayaran-Ruiz, 54, aka Other Inge; Javier Vera, 24, aka Ducky; Christian Gonzalez, 24; and Miguel Cordova, 20, aka Mike, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
On Nov. 17, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officers in Eagle Pass, Texas, discovered that a Union Pacific train bound for Chicago Heights was carrying about 21,800 pounds of suspected marijuana, according to an affidavit.
From Dec. 6-10, the cars were unloaded by individuals who used forklifts to move marijuana from inside the cars to a storage facility near the warehouse, the affidavit said.
Throughout last week, agents using court-authorized video recording inside the facility and aerial surveillance observed individuals unloading bundles from rail cars, according to the affidavit. They were put on flatbed trailers and driven about 50 yards to a smaller storage facility. Between Dec. 7-10, the process was repeated until all six train cars were unloaded.
The seven charged remain in federal custody pending detention and preliminary hearings, which are scheduled for Dec. 21, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's office.
The arrests were announced the same day a Tinley Park family was charged in a separate case with running a large pot growing operation out of their home.