GRAND RAPIDS — The final defendant has pleaded guilty to federal drug charges for his role in an international drug ring that centered around New Buffalo, according to federal prosecutors.
U.S. Attorney Mark Totten of the Western District of Michigan announced May 25 that 35-year-old Adrian Romero Antunez, a Mexican national in the U.S. on a tourist visa, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.
Romero Antunez was the last of the defendants to plead guilty in the transnational and interstate cocaine ring that centered around New Buffalo resident Ivan Huerta Hernandez, 33, Totten said in a statement.
Through conduits in Mexico, Huerta Hernandez was supplied by sources located in Chicago, including Romero Antunez. He then distributed cocaine to dealers in Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana, according to the prosecutor.
On the morning of Nov. 3, 2021, approximately 90 federal, state and local law enforcement officers executed arrest warrants and six search warrants in four federal judicial districts: the Northern District of Indiana, the Western District of Michigan, the Northern District of Illinois and the Central District of Illinois.
Investigators seized more than 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, approximately $100,000 in cash, six vehicles linked to cocaine trafficking and two firearms, Totten said.
The La Porte County Drug Task Force, Michigan City Police and La Porte City Police were involved in the operation.
La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake said in a Facebook post he was “very proud of the La Porte County Drug Task Force and all the hard work they do on these cases.
“The cooperation between the federal agencies and La Porte County’s law enforcement agencies is not highlighted enough due to ongoing investigations that can take months and years to complete, and cross multiple states and jurisdictions, but they make La Porte County proud with all their hard work and dedication.”
A statement from La Porte Police said: “The La Porte County Drug Task Force aided with several other agencies in bringing residents of Michigan City and La Porte City to justice.
The La Porte County Drug Task Force is made up of detectives from La Porte City Police, Michigan City Police, La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police and DEA. This is a reflection of the dedication of all the detectives in the LCDTF in cleaning up our streets.”
The other defendants who previously pleaded guilty to federal drug charges are:
Juan Martinez Camarillo, 37, Michigan City
Manuel Eudave, 54, La Porte
Santiago Cardenas, 41, Michigan City
Donald James Rogers, 62, New Buffalo
Ivan Huerta Hernandez, 33, New Buffalo
Adrian Romero Antunez, 35, Chicago
Marcus Jemel Johnson, 41, Benton Harbor
Henry Shavar Nichols, 41, Greenville, South Carolina
“The guilty pleas in this case represent a significant victory against a transnational drug trafficking conspiracy,” Totten said. “My office is committed to combating large-scale traffickers who bring these poisons to the Western District of Michigan.
“This prosecution demonstrates the power of pooling the resources of federal, state and local governments. Drug trafficking organizations do not recognize political boundaries and we must continue to work together to combat drug trafficking organizations across Michigan, the Midwest and the United States.”
On May 23, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney sentenced Nichols to 36 months imprisonment, Martinez Camarillo to 57 months and Cardenas to one year of probation. Rogers is scheduled for sentencing on June 17, Johnson on June 21, Huerta Hernandez on July 21 and Romero Antunez on Sept. 12.
The case was investigated and prosecuted as part of an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation that began in 2020.
Along with the three agencies in La Porte County, it involved the FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Michigan State Police Southwest Enforcement Team, Berrien County Sheriff’s Office, Pokagon Band Tribal Police and the Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff’s Office.