GARY — The plane that landed at the Gary/Chicago International Airport last week with an alleged 220 pounds of cocaine aboard had presumably gone through customs in Houston and was thus not routed through the local customs facility, GCIA Executive Director Duane Hayden said Wednesday.

"All pilots and passengers must clear U.S. Customs and Immigration inspection upon entering the United States from a foreign country," the local airport says as part of an online description of its customs and border protection facility.

The local facility is described by GCIA as "state of the art" and the newest of its type in the Chicago metropolitan region.

Hayden further told his airport board members in a prepared statement Wednesday morning that "no illegal narcotics were seized on airport property during the incident in question."

Two Indiana men were arrested and federal officials are seizing the airplane in question as part of the Nov. 3 bust, which has been described as a disruption of a suspected Mexico-to-Chicago drug pipeline.

Sebastian Vazquez-Gamez, 30, of Mexico, arrived at the Gary airport at 6:43 p.m. Nov. 3 on a plane that traveled the day before from Mexico to Houston, according to a charging document and a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Northern District of Illinois.

Law enforcement surveillance watched Vazquez-Gamez and an airport employee unload duffel bags and suitcases from the plane and the airport employee then pull a dolly cart containing all the luggage toward the Gary Jet Center building, charges say. A Lincoln Navigator SUV then arrived on scene and drove off with the luggage to a hotel in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood, officials said.

Vazquez-Gamez was seen shortly after 9 p.m. in Chicago loading some of the suitcases into a Toyota Highlander SUV with a temporary Indiana license plate that was driven by Rodrigo Alexis Jimenez-Perez, 25, of Columbus, Indiana, charges allege.

The Toyota was pulled over by officers a few blocks away and officials said they found 80 brick-shaped packages wrapped in black tape, which they said later proved to be 176 pounds of cocaine. Jimenez-Perez was arrested on a charge of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, records show.

Vazquez-Gamez was taken by officials back to the hotel, where 20 additional brick-shaped packages of cocaine were discovered, charges say. Vazquez-Gamez was then arrested on a charge of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

Sergio Ivan Blas, 39, of Indianapolis, was also charged, based on allegations of using Facebook Messenger to direct Jimenez-Perez to the Gary airport and then the Chicago hotel to pick up the 80 kilograms of cocaine, officials said.
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