Posted on October 20, 2004

Customs Officials Accused In Drug Ring

AP, Oct. 20

CHICAGO, Illinois — Two customs officials were among 20 people accused of participating in a drug ring that smuggled millions of dollars in heroin, cocaine and marijuana from Mexico to the U.S., according to a federal complaint unsealed Tuesday.

Officials said the two customs officials, Jaime Garcia, 27, and Alma O. Teran, 28, both of Chicago, used law enforcement databases to determine if agents were investigating members of the drug ring. They were arrested at Chicago’s Midway Airport and face 10 years to life in prison if convicted of the charges they face.

Fifteen of the others charged have also been arrested, while five remain fugitives.

According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the drug ring’s Los Angeles leader, 32-year-old Salvador Mendoza, was involved in the distribution of 150 kilograms of cocaine, 5,000 pounds of marijuana and 10 pounds of crystal methamphetamine per month.

Officials said he laundered the proceeds through real estate transactions and a used car business.

Jose Urena, 28, and Lino Iniguez, 37, were accused of being the leaders of the Chicago cell. Officials said drugs also were sold in New York and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Federal officials said the investigation began with a 2003 traffic stop in Texas when lawmen seized $2.2 million, and led to wiretaps in Los Angeles and Chicago. The investigation into drug smuggling and money laundering that followed in several states has resulted in 83 arrests, according to the DEA.