3 guilty 1 cleared of drug charges

Frank Callahan

Three men have been convicted and one cleared of federal drug charges stemming from a phony cocaine deal in the parking lot of an Aurora fast-food restaurant last April.

A U.S. District Court jury deliberated for about four hours before find Maximo Hernandez, 36, of 716 Mountain St., Aurora, not guilty.

His three co-defendants pleaded guilty and testified in court that Hernandez had masterminded the drug deal. But the jury believed Hernandez, who claimed that he was an unwitting participant in the police-orchestrated drug deal.

Each of the other defendant - Martin Montalvo, 35, of 414 Pierce St., Aurora; Jose Luis Perez, 21, of 100 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora; and Rubin Hernandez, 29, of 997 W. Route 126, Plainfield - pleaded guilty and will be sentenced to 30 month in prison.

The sentences were part of a plea agreement in which the three agreed to testify against Maximo Hernandez.

Each of the defendants was charged with conspiracy band attempting to buy cocaine. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

The four were arrested on the morning of April 11 as the result of a "reverse" sting, in which a police agent posed as a drug dealer trying to sell three nonexistent kilos of cocaine.

The agent met with the suspects in the parking lot of the McDonald's Restaurant at Fox Valley Center. After receiving a packet of cash from one of the suspects, the agent gave a signal and other officers closed in to make the arrest.

"Our client was not aware it was a cocaine deal until the arrest," said David Camic, one of two attorneys who defended Maximo Hernandez.

Montalvo asked Hernandez, an admitted cocaine user, to accompany him when he went to pay money to a creditor, Camic said. In exchange, Montalvo promised Hernandez free cocain, Camic said.

"The government attempted to portray our client as the big guy, the one who was brokering and financing the deal," said Camic. "We were able, in fact, to show that Martin Montalvo was the one responsible for the transaction."

In the arrest, agents seized $24,000 in cash and a car belonging to Montalvo. The car had secret compartments built into the back seat "to hide drugs and money," Camic said.

The verdict clearing Hernandez came late Friday at the end of a week-long trial held at the Dirksen Building in Chicago.