An Arlington Heights couple who owns a pizzeria allegedly used the business to cover up their role in a drug trafficking operation to bring heroin from Mexico to the Chicago area, officials said today.
Maria Garza, 37, and Carmelo Rios, 35, along with four other people, were charged with criminal drug conspiracy, according to a statement released today by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. They face 15 to 60 years in prison if convicted.
Their arrest follows a six-month joint undercover investigation in which law enforcement recovered about $900,000 worth of drugs, officials said.
The couple, who opened DeLuca’s Pizzeria and Catering in Buffalo Grove this summer, allegedly arranged for large quantities of heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana to be distributed in the Chicago area as well as the East Coast. Warrants were executed Thursday at their home and their business.
Rios’ son, Carmelo Rios Jr., 18, said he believes his father and Garza are innocent.
“It was a shock to the family,” he said. “…They took our family. We don’t know what will happen until court.”
He described his father as a hardworking man and said both Rios and Garza were invested in their pizza business.
Also charged were Victor Zaragoza, 55, and Jorge Alberto-Gonzalez, 30, both of Chicago; Alexander Colon-Ortiz, 37, of Philadelphia; and Fredy Arroyo-Ortuna, 32, of Placentia, Calif. Police are still looking for two more defendants, for whom warrants have been issued.
Investigators stopped Rios’ and Colon-Ortiz’s car on Nov. 21 when they learned they were to make a drug delivery. They were taken into custody on that day.
Bond was set today at $1 million for Garza, $850,000 for Zaragoza and $700,000 for Alberto-Gonzalez, officials said. Zaragoza was also charged separately with possession of heroin.
“Two of the individuals charged in this investigation with drug conspiracy attempted to legitimize themselves as business owners to cover up the alleged distribution of devastating illegal drugs,” Jack Riley, special agent in charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a statement. The DEA and the Cook County state’s attorney’s narcotics prosecution bureau worked together on the investigation.
“This is an excellent example of an effective joint law enforcement investigation that will have a direct impact on the street sale and distribution of narcotics in Chicago and suburban communities,” Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez said. “We will continue to target and aggressively prosecute the organized sale and distribution of illegal narcotics throughout Cook County.”
Prosecutors: Buffalo Grove pizzeria cover for drug operation
Carmelo Rios and Maria Garza (police photos)