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Flight Attendant and Bank Workers Have Been Charged in a Drug Trafficking Plot in Chicago


CHICAGO – Three people have been charged with helping Mexican drug dealers bring thousands of kilograms of cocaine into the United States and hide tens of millions of dollars. Two of them work at an Indiana bank.

According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, Glenis Zapata, 34, of Lafayette, Indiana, was charged with using her job as a flight attendant to help the group transport drug money on commercial airline flights. The charges were made public on Friday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Authorities say Glenis Zapata had a tag that said “known crew member” and took the money from the Midwest to the south of the U.S. and into Mexico.

Ilenis Zapata, 33, and Georgina Banuelos, 39, were also charged with helping to wash the money in the indictment. As charged, Ilenis Zapata and Banuelos worked together at a bank in Lafayette. They are said to have traded lower-value bills for higher-value bills without reporting the trades on their currency reports.

Authorities say they have filed new charges of conspiracy and money laundering against 15 other people. These include Oswaldo Espinosa, 41, who is thought to be the leader of the trafficking organization, Jorge Borbon-Ochoa, 46, who is its main manager, and Ricardo Tellos, 37, who is in charge of operations in Chicago.

Between 2018 and 2023, Espinosa’s group is said to have brought large amounts of cocaine from Mexico to places in the U.S., including Chicago.

The drug money was sent by semi-trailer trucks and a private charter plane that was seized by federal authorities at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. The cocaine and cash were received and stored in warehouses, garages, and stash houses in Chicago, according to the indictment.

The dates for their arraignments have not been set yet.

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