17 charged in 'Operation Tragic Blow' drug trafficking investigation

Charges have been filed against 17 people as part of a joint federal and state investigation into heroin and cocaine trafficking in the Chicago area.

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Tragic Blow," spanned multiple years and largely focused on drug trafficking in the Belmont Cragin and Buena Park neighborhoods, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois announced on Thursday.

Authorities seized multiple kilograms of heroin and cocaine, including a 14-kilogram cocaine seizure in Belmont Cragin and a two-kilogram heroin seizure in a Buena Park high-rise building, prosecutors said.

The investigation was led by U.S. Homeland Security officials and Chicago police relying on undercover surveillance, part of a federal task force aimed at high-level drug operations, officials said Thursday.


The following are facing federal drug charges in connection with the operation:

Yarnell Allen, 41, of Dolton;
Ulises Avina, 32, of Chicago;
Oscar Balderama, 42, of Chicago;
Celestino Barahona-Serrano, 38, of Chicago;
Diego Galeana-Gonzaga, 35, of Mexico;
Margarito Galeana-Gomez, 36, of Mexico;
Jose Gonzaga, 58, of Chicago;
Rafael Medellin, Jr., 32, of Chicago;
Richard C. Rincon, 39, of Oak Lawn;
Juan Rosas-Cabrera, 31, of Mexico;
Sergio Sanchez-Chavez, 36, of Mexico;
Francisco Sanchez-Yanez, 32, of Chicago;
Antonio Segura, 39, of Oak Lawn;
Jorge A. Valdez, 40, of Chicago;
Virginia Vazquez-Perez, 37, of Cicero;
Delvin Williams, 42, of Chicago; and
Rafael Zarco-Picazo, 33, of Chicago.

Zarco-Picazo is accused of selling distribution levels of cocaine to Valdez who then allegedly sold smaller quantities to customers in Chicago, prosecutors said. 

On January 30, law enforcement seized 14-kilograms of cocaine from Zarco-Picazo's Nissan Z sedan, which was parked at a residence in the 2300 block of North Menard Avenue, the complaint stated. The cocaine was packed into bricks and hidden behind one of the Nissan's speaker consoles.

Galeana-Gomez and Gonzaga allegedly conspired to sell nearly two kilograms of heroin, vacuum-sealed in bricks, to an undercover law enforcement officer and a person cooperating with authorities.

On September 17, 2020, Gonzaga attempted to sell the heroin in an underground parking garage of a high-rise apartment building in the 4200 block of North Marine Drive, prosecutors said. Law enforcement arrested Gonzaga and found supplies used to package narcotics, including a heat sealer, vacuum sealer rolls, and a digital scale, inside two apartments on the building's 27th floor, the complaint states.


Galeana-Gonzaga is also accused of distributing a kilogram of heroin in two separate deliveries. A total of 720 grams of heroin was allegedly delivered to Williams at an apartment building in Brookfield and 280 grams was delivered to Vazquez-Perez in a vehicle in the 2900 block of North Cicero Avenue in Belmont-Cragin, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Segura and Allen are charged with dealing two-kilograms of cocaine on April 30, 2020 behind a residence in the 6100 block of South Talman Avenue in Chicago Lawn.

In addition to the 17 federal defendants arrested Wednesday, two other individuals were charged in state court as part of the investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.