The former Chicago-area crew leader for the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel in Mexico has been freed on bond after sitting in jail for more than nine years on federal charges.
Pablo Vega Cuevas has been cooperating with federal authorities against the cartel, which is accused of shipping thousands of pounds of heroin to the Chicago area on passenger buses. The cartel also is suspected of participating in the presumed massacre of 43 college students in Mexico in 2014.
Vega, who grew up in Aurora, appeared in court Thursday in an orange jail uniform and listened to a Spanish translation of the proceedings on headphones. His defense attorney Robert Rascia asked to speak with the judge and prosecutor out of earshot of the public. They huddled for about seven minutes.
U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso then ordered Vega freed in lieu of a $200,000 bond secured with property. Prosecutors didn’t object. Vega, arrested in late 2014, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Parthum told the judge his order will prevent a situation in which Vega remains in jail awaiting sentencing for longer than his eventual prison term.
Vega will remain on house arrest until his sentencing, the judge said. He was barred from having contact with a reputed leader of the cartel. The next hearing in Vega’s case is scheduled for June but a date for his sentencing hasn’t been set.
Contributing: Jon Seidel