DEA: Valley men transported drugs West Coast to Midwest |

DEA: Valley men transported drugs West Coast to Midwest

Naomi Havlen

Two upper valley residents had a role transporting cocaine from Los Angeles to Chicago, according to a federal arrest affidavit.Thomas Blank, 65, and Glen Fuller, 50, are charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute as part of a large drug smuggling and money laundering operation. Blank was arrested in Aspen last week and Fuller turned himself in Tuesday.Both face charges in Chicago. A total of 18 people have been charged in the Drug Enforcement Administration investigation called Operation Money Clip.”These charges are very serious,” said Randall Samborn of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago. “They carry a mandatory minimum [sentence] of 10 years in prison, and a maximum of life in prison if convicted.”The smuggling operations outlined in the warrant begin with the transport of cocaine from Los Angeles to Chicago that both Blank and Fuller allegedly had a role in. The DEA believes Salvador Mendoza was the head of the Los Angeles cell of the organization. He allegedly obtained large quantities of cocaine and marijuana from various sources, and arranged for the distribution to other members of the organization. Mendoza received payment after the drugs were sold, according to the DEA.Jose Urena was allegedly the head of a Chicago cell of the organization, receiving drugs for others to distribute in the area.Blank and Fuller are both listed as “workers in the conspiracy” in the affidavit, which says that both made arrangements with Mendoza and Urena to transport multikilogram quantities of cocaine from Los Angeles to the Midwest.The case’s summary of probable cause begins with the seizure of 137 kilograms of cocaine in January. On Jan. 6, DEA agents intercepted a phone call between Mendoza and another individual, allegedly talking about the transport of cocaine.Mendoza told the person on the phone that the “horse” – allegedly Fuller’s trailer – was leaving Jan. 7.The person asked Mendoza “how much was spent on horse feed” – allegedly the amount of cocaine inside the trailer – and Mendoza said “$137,” apparently referring to 137 kilograms of cocaine.Agents in California allegedly saw Blank and Fuller in a truck yard in the town of Fontana on Jan. 7. Police say they were meeting with an unidentified man and woman next to a Dodge truck with Colorado plates that was registered to Illusion Productions in Aspen. The truck also had an enclosed car trailer with Colorado plates registered to Blank at 390 Silverlode Drive in Aspen.DEA agents allegedly intercepted a phone call on Jan. 8 between Mendoza and Urena, discussing when Fuller would leave for Chicago. The affidavit says that the truck was outfitted with a court-authorized tracking device, which showed on Jan. 9 that the truck and trailer were headed eastbound from the Los Angeles area toward Las Vegas.On Jan. 11, DEA agents in Chicago allegedly found Fuller going eastbound on Interstate 80. An Illinois state trooper stopped the truck near Joliet and arrested Fuller for driving with an invalid license.The warrant says that the truck and trailer were taken to a secure location, where a narcotics dog smelled the presence of drugs. Agents allegedly found five black duffel bags and a black suitcase in a concealed compartment of the vehicle containing 137 kilograms of cocaine.In another intercepted phone call, agents allegedly heard Mendoza tell another man that Fuller had been only one or two exits away from his destination when he was pulled over. Fuller allegedly arrived back at the tow yard the next day and was given the truck, though police altered the concealed compartment of the truck to make it look like the cocaine had been stolen.The warrant says agents heard a phone conversation between Urena and Blank in which they theorized that the missing cocaine was either due to Fuller or the police. Urena allegedly told Blank that state troopers will do some “slick stuff like that” and said that all cops around Chicago are corrupt.The 84-page warrant lists a number of other encounters with DEA agents and other organization members, including the seizure of large amounts of cash and marijuana. Fuller and Blank are only mentioned in the January incident of the warrant.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail is