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Buffalo Grove Pizzeria Owners Charged With International Drug Trafficking

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Maria Garza (left); Carmelo Rios (Cook County Sheriff's Dept.)

Maria Garza (left); Carmelo Rios (Cook County Sheriff’s Dept.)

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BUFFALO GROVE, Ill. (CBS) — Barely a month ago, the owners of DeLuca’s Pizzeria were the subject of a feature article in the Buffalo Grove Patch, in which they talked about fine-tuning recipes and the seasonal cycles of the pizza business.

But now state and federal authorities say Maria Garza and Carmelo Rios were selling more than pizza, and they’re facing serious criminal charges.

Garza, 37, and Rios, 35, both of Arlington Heights, stand charged with drug conspiracy following a six-month undercover investigation. The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office says they were the importing shipments of heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana by the kilo from Mexico, for trafficking to dealers in Chicago and on the East Coast.

Four others have also been arrested and charged in the joint investigation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, including two men from Chicago, a man from California, and a man from Philadelphia. Authorities are still looking for two others.

During the investigation that led to Garza and Rios, DEA agents took about 7.5 kilograms of heroin, 1 kilogram of meth, and 5.1 pounds of marijuana, with a total estimated street value of $900,000. Garza and Rios were captured on video surveillance trafficking drugs, according to the State’s Attorney’s office.

DeLuca’s Pizza and Catering opened on Aug. 1 at 1008 Weiland Rd. in Buffalo Grove, just off Deerfield Parkway.

In a Nov. 2 article in the Buffalo Grove Patch, Garza told reporter Megan Horst Hatch that she had been fine-tuning her pizza recipe by testing doughs made from powdered yeast, honey and sugar and making her own sauce on sight.

Garza told the publication she had never owned a pizzeria before, but had worked in catering and for franchises. The former Cicero resident said she had never heard of Buffalo Grove before opening DeLuca’s, but her broker found the location, the Patch article said.

But Garza was praised in the article by Buffalo Grove Chamber of Commerce director of member services Mark Groves, who said she “really knows her stuff” and said her background would distinguish DeLuca’s from the four others that have opened and closed in the same location in the past five years.

The Web site for DeLuca’s includes a menu, but also has empty space that says the site is “under construction, information will be updated soon.”

The State’s Attorneys’ office did not indicate whether the pizzeria had closed as a result of the arrests.

Search warrants were executed Thursday at Rios and Garza’s Arlington Heights home, and at DeLuca’s, according to the State’s Attorney’s office.

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