A man has been charged with shooting at police during a chase that resulted in the finding of $22 million worth of marijuana at a warehouse in Wood Dale,.
Nicholas Valentino, 33, of Des Plaines, Illinois has been charged with armed violence, illegal possession of cannabis and other controlled narcotics, as well as weapons offenses.
Drug Bust Turns Dramatic
According to prosecutors, officers with the DuPage County Metropolitan Enforcement Group, or DuMeg, were conducting surveillance at a Wood Dale warehouse suspected of being used for illegal drug transactions the night of Thursday, May 2.
The agents observed a van and a Volkswagen, both of which were claimed to be driven by Valentino, leaving the facility. Agents followed the vehicles into Chicago before ceasing surveillance, but they later saw the van and attempted to stop it.
The vehicle flashed its headlights and came to a halt on a residential neighborhood in Wood Dale and, in an apparent ambush, Valentino allegedly stood on the street with a revolver and fired two bullets at the agents’ unmarked car, according to prosecutors.
The agents were not hit because they had backed up their car.
Prosecutors claim Valentino re-entered the Volkswagen and sped away with the van before agents pursued them onto Route 83, where the two vehicles split up.
Agents pursued the Volkswagen.
Valentino was caught shortly after the Volkswagen crashed with a Bensenville police car and an unmarked DuMeg police car responding to the incident.
Officers discovered a full magazine for an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle under the Volkswagen’s center console.
According to police, two expended bullets were discovered at the scene of the shooting, one live round and two .223 caliber assault rifle bullet casings—the same sort of ammunition used in the Volkswagen.
Prosecutors said an AR-15-style assault rifle was located in Bensenville on a residential street, where police believe Valentino allegedly threw it from the car, with no magazine and one round in the chamber.
Search Nets Nearly Four Tons of Cannabis
Police conducted a search warrant at the warehouse the next day and discovered around 40 pallets of vacuum-sealed cannabis weighing 7,688 pounds, 406 pounds of cannabis edibles, 6,891 THC vape cartridges, and more than 700 grams of psilocybin mushroom bars, according to authorities.
A total of $107,000 in cash was also recovered by the cops.
The cannabis seizure was the greatest in DuPage County history, according to prosecutors. An AK-47 gun, 9mm ammunition, and banking records were also discovered.
Despite being shot at, DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin praised DuMeg agents for apprehending a suspected violent drug dealer.
“The charges against Mr. Valentino are utterly preposterous,” stated Berlin. “While recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois, the charges that Mr. Valentino was in possession of such large amounts of marijuana highlight the existence of a thriving illicit black market that requires law enforcement’s attention.”
In a phone conversation, Berlin added, “Illinois is no different than any other state that has legalized marijuana. People believe it will put a stop to the black market, but that has not been the case. Because of the taxes, legal marijuana will always be more expensive.”
Valentino, whose bond was set at $5 million, has an arraignment set for June 28.
The case is still being investigated.