The Supermercado near downtown Joliet is a brightly painted community hub frequented by Mexican residents who can buy groceries, wire money home or find an apartment among the notices posted outside on the avocado walls.
Motorists driving by the busy intersection of Collins and Cass streets know it for the enticing smells rising from the taco truck parked just behind the store. There's even a barbershop above the market.
But Joliet police said the popular grocery also was the center of a very different kind of commerce. Its longtime owner, Ramiro Sanchez, 54, ran a narcotics organization from the shop, even keeping his office shelves stocked with kilos of cocaine, according to police and recently unsealed federal charging documents.
Joliet police have been aware of Sanchez's drug activity for years, police Chief Michael Trafton said, but weren't able to build a case against him until an informant began cooperating in the summer of 2011 and police turned to the FBI for assistance.