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Six indicted in alleged cocaine distribution ring between Elkhart and Ohio

ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. -

A federal grand jury has handed up indictments against six people for allegedly selling and distributing cocaine in Elkhart and Columbus, Ohio.

While collaborating on this story with our reporting partner, The Elkhart Truth, ABC57 obtained the indictment detailing the arrests.

A federal search warrant was served at the Super Mex Fresh Market store on Jackson Boulevard on Wednesday. Property records in Elkhart County, the owners of the store are identified as Aurelio and Jose Cervantes of Donna Texas, according to The Elkhart Truth.

ABC57 took a mugshot of Aurelio Cervantes to shoppers and they confirmed he is the man they have purchased their groceries from in the past.

According to the indictment, the following people are facing charges:

Aurelio Cervantes, 52, of Elkhart (15 counts)

  • Conspiracy
  • Racketeering & Aiding and abetting (5 counts)
  • Possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine (8 counts)
  • Racketeering

Jose B Pena, in custody in Ohio, (11 counts)

  • Conspiracy
  • Racketeering & Aiding and abetting (5 counts)
  • Possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine (5 counts)

Jose C Pena, 36, of the Dominican Republic (11 counts)

  • Conspiracy
  • Racketeering & Aiding and abetting (5 counts)
  • Possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine (5 counts)

Omar Loza, 33, of Elkhart (14 counts)

  • Conspiracy
  • Racketeering & Aiding and abetting (5 counts)
  • Possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine (8 counts)

Kristina Jimenez, 34, of Florida (3 counts)

  • Conspiracy
  • Racketeering (2 counts)

Hector Lopez Jr, 40 of Donna, Texas (11 counts)

  • Conspiracy
  • Racketeering & Aiding and abetting (5 counts)
  • Possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine (5 counts)

Super Mex Fresh Market was open Thursday, but employees did not discuss what happened on Wednesday.

Cervantes, J.B. Pena, J. C. Pena, Lopez, Loza and Jimenez are accused of conspiring to distribute more than 5 kilos of cocaine beginning in or around the summer of 2010 through February 2013, according to the indictment.

Cervantes, J.B. Pena, J. C. Pena, Lopez and Loza are accused of sending cocaine to Ohio for distribution in November 2010, December 2010, January 2011, February 2011, and May 2011, according to the indictment..

Cervantes is accused of receiving a shipment of cocaine for distribution in March 2011, according to the indictment..

Jimenez is accused of delivering cocaine from Elkhart to the Columbus, Ohio area for distribution in January 2012 and in the spring of 2012, according to the indictment.

Cervantes and Loza reside locally and are booked into the St. Joseph County Jail.

ABC57 went to Cervantes' home in Elkhart, but a relative refused to comment.

Both Cervantes and Loza are scheduled for a hearing next Wednesday.

History of the grocery store

ABC57 has learned the same family has owned the building at 240 E. Jackson Street for over 2 decades, according to the minutes of the Elkhart Board of Zoning Appeals meeting of December 9, 2010. Jason Ward, a person speaking on behalf of the petitioners, Aurelio Cervantes and Jose Cervantes, told the board the building has been in the family for 18 years. The Cervantes' were requesting a variance so they could open the grocery store at that location.

It had previously been a restaurant.

According to a nearby business owner, identified in the meeting minutes as Bill Wargo, when the building was a Mexican restaurant, a man named Martin Cervantes was arrested for dealing drugs from the location in 2002, according to the meeting minutes.

Ward responded:

The property has been owned by the family for 18 years, so it hasn't been recently purchased and that leads me into something. I know Bill and respect his position, but I disagree with the suggestion that because a former family member might have operated that facility 7 or 8 years ago that did something wrong, that this is going to be operated for purposes of illegal activities. It's not going to be operated for purposes of illegal activities. I'm not sure that Bill was meaning to suggest that, but a lot of the discussion was about a previous family member. They don't know where the previous family member is, but they believe he is dead. They are not going to run drugs out of this store; it will be a legitimate business. Suggestions to the contrary are disagreed with from that standpoint.

A search of Indiana court records shows a Martin Cervantes was charged with dealing in a controlled substance in Elkhart in 2001 but the charges were dropped.

The board approved the variance.

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