A family — husband, wife and young son — was hired in Mexico, given a car and directions to the Chicago suburb of Joliet and paid to live there as part of an elaborate ploy to disguise the two-story home’s true purpose: to serve as a stash house for a drug ring that allegedly raked in about $10 million a year selling cocaine, most recently under the leadership of a man named “Panda.” So says federal case reported by the Chicago Tribune. Federal agents and local police raided the four-bedroom home in June, finding $1.4 million in cash in vacuum-sealed baggies in the attic and, inside a black Ford pickup in the garage, 54 kilograms of cocaine. It was part of a larger bust in which 17 people were arrested and accused of using stash houses across several suburbs.
Federal authorities say the suburbs now rival Chicago when comparing the amount of drugs imported to the area by Mexican cartels. The most significant drug conspiracy in Chicago history, detailed last month and traced back to Mexico’s most notorious drug kingpins, operated out of stash houses dotted all over bucolic suburban neighborhoods. “Oh my God,” said Tonya Butler, who lives down the street from the Joliet home. “I never would’ve suspected it. I thought this was a good working-class neighborhood. We all get up in the morning. We all go to work.”