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Smuggler nabbed in Naperville with 45 lbs. of pot going to prison

Sergio Sanchez
Sergio Sanchez

A man from Florida who was arrested nearly three years ago at a Naperville train station with 45 pounds of marijuana hidden inside his travel bags has been sentenced to six years in prison in that crime.

Sergio Sanchez, a 20-year-old father from Orlando, Fla., remains in DuPage County Jail in Wheaton. He pleaded guilty to an amended, felony charge of the manufacture or delivery of more than 2,000 but not more than 5,000 grams of marijuana, according to DuPage County Circuit Court records.

Judge Robert G. Kleeman on Wednesday accepted Sanchez’s plea and imposed the six-year prison term, said Paul Darrah spokesman for State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin. Sanchez was given 35 days of credit toward his sentence for time he spent in jail following his arrest.

Darrah said Sanchez also will spend two years on mandatory, supervised release after completing his prison stint. He also has been ordered to pay fines and legal costs totaling $12,575.

Court records indicated the original, Class X felony charge of the manufacture or delivery of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana was dismissed in exchange for Sanchez’s plea, as was a companion charge of cannabis trafficking of more than 2,500 but not more than 5,000 grams of the drug.

Naperville police arrested Sanchez just after 4 p.m. Oct. 13, 2011, after he got off an Amtrak train that originated in Nevada. Authorities did not say whether the arrest was made at the Metra Railway Fourth Avenue commuter train station just north of downtown Naperville or at Metra’s Route 59 depot on the city’s northwest side.

Sanchez had been under investigation by agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who also participated in the arrest.

A DEA spokesman in 2011 said the probe began after Sanchez purchased an Amtrak ticket on the west coast. Agents quickly learned he was carrying some type of contraband, the spokesman said.

Federal investigators “routinely” look for people who are “using all modes of transportation” in smuggling drugs, weapons and other illegal goods, the spokesman said. “We have groups (of agents) working airports, train stations and bus stations. It’s literally planes, trains and automobiles.”

DEA agents regularly partner with local law enforcement agencies. In Sanchez’s case, “we got in contact with Naperville police, and they had one of their K-9s available” for sniffing out drugs, the spokesman said.

The dog was brought to the train station and began barking at Sanchez. A subsequent search of the two suitcases and backpack he was carrying yielded 45, one-pound packages of “high-grade marijuana,” the spokesman said. It had a total, street sale value of between $135,000 and $225,000.

The spokesman added he did not know whether the marijuana had been bound for the Naperville area or elsewhere.

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