12,000 Pounds Pot Seized from Warehouse

Marijuana is worth an estimated $33 million, police say

By Robert Rodriguez
|  Wednesday, Aug 24, 2011  |  Updated 6:58 AM CDT
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Up in Smoke: Illinois' Biggest Drug Busts

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Seven men were arrested and more than 12,000 pounds of cannabis seized in a massive drug operation Monday, police said.

The pot had an estimated value of more than $33 million, they said.

The operation, conducted by a Chicago Police Narcotics Unit, is the largest local cannabis drug bust conducted solely by Chicago police.

Narcotics officers said they were tipped off about a drug trafficking organization linked to several Chicago area street gangs. The information informed officers that the traffickers had large distribution and storage centers in the city.

An investigation led the officers to a warehouse in the 1000 block of South Kolmar Avenue in Chicago's West Side Lawndale neighborhood.

Officers stopped a van leaving the warehouse grounds early Monday morning, finding 2,500 pounds of cannabis inside.

As officers proceeded to search the premises of the warehouse, they soon discovered packages of marijuana amassing up to 9,800 pounds. Police also seized seven vehicles at the facility, as well as a rifle and a handgun.

Two police canines were able to detect the scent of the drugs despite efforts made to conceal odor.  The packages were labeled "AK-47," and the pot was within layers of cellophane and aluminum wrapping that was coated with ball bearing grease.

Among those arrested were Salvador Lopez, 28 of California; Jesus Munoz, 20, of Woodville, Calif.; Ruben Salazar, 37, of the 2700 block of N. Artesian Ave. in Chicago; Sotero Salazar, 43, of the 6200 block of W. Cuyler Ave. in Chicago; Manuel Sanchez, 37, with no address; Calderon Sandoval,25, of Grandview, Wash; and Daniel Saucedo, 36, of the 5900 block of South Austin Avenue in Chicago.

All of the arrested men were charged with cannabis possession, and Manuel Sanchez was also charged with cannabis trafficking for allegedly driving a cargo van full of marijuana out of the building to another facility at 4443 W. Filmore.

Judge Jackie Portman ordered Manuel Sanchez held on $600,000 bond and ordered Jesus Munoz to be held on $500,000 bond after driving the intercepted cargo van into the warehouse.

Ruben Salazar, Salavador Lopez, Sotero Salazar, Calderon Sandoval and Daniel Saucedo are being held on $300,000.

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