One year after Arlington Heights police and the Chicago branch of the Drug Enforcement Agency teamed up for a joint narcotics investigation, their efforts culminated today in guilty pleas from four men involved in a widespread Northwest suburban cocaine distribution ring Cook County prosecutors dubbed Dial-A-Rock.
Among the men pleading guilty to criminal drug conspiracy was the ring's reported leader, Ector Cortez. The 41-year-old Rolling Meadows man admitted running the operation, which prosecutors say handled 100 transactions a day for about 10 years, said Dan Fahlgren, a prosecutor with the Cook County State's Attorney's narcotics unit.
According to police, Cortez moved about one-quarter kilo of cocaine, or about half of a pound, worth about $50,000 every couple of days.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Fecarotta sentenced Cortez to 12 years in prison in exchange for his guilty plea. Fecarotta imposed the same sentence on Adrian Peregrino-Garcia, 22, who also pleaded guilty to criminal drug conspiracy. The Schaumburg man admitted to police that he packaged and processed cocaine for sale and collected money from the men who delivered the drugs to clients, Fahlgren said.
"I'm pleased with the sentences," said Arlington Heights Police Commander Kenneth Galinski, who called the sentences just. "Twelve years is a long time in prison." Julio Zenteno, 31, of Mount Prospect, and Carlos Ruiz, 21, of Arlington Heights who authorities described as "couriers" or delivery men pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Zenteno was sentenced to six years in prison for possession of a controlled substance. Ruiz was sentenced to six years in prison for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.
Each defendant received credit for 170 days in custody. They must complete 85 percent of their sentences before they are eligible for parole.
With the exception of Cortez's misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest from 1995, none of the defendants has a criminal background, Fahlgren said.
Arlington Heights police and the DEA used wiretaps and surveillance during the joint investigation, which began in September 2009 and concluded in April with the arrest of the four defendants and some of their customers. The arrests came during a two-day sweep involving Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village, Mount Prospect, Rolling Meadows and Schaumburg police.
According to prosecutors, customers called Cortez and Peregrino-Garcia on a cell phone. Cortez then dispatched "couriers" Zenteno and Ruiz to various locations to deliver the cocaine. After observing hand-to-hand transactions during March and April, police arrested both customers and suppliers on April 14, Fahlgren said.
Subsequent searches of some of the defendants' homes and vehicles yielded cocaine in amounts ranging from 14.5 to 421 grams, Fahlgren said.
Galinski complimented Arlington Heights investigators on their outstanding work.
"A lot of dedicated man-hours and surveillance hours" went into the operation, said Galinski, who also acknowledged other law enforcement agencies who he said contributed to the operation's success.
By Barbara Vitello
Daily Herald Staff