First reported 8/13/2010 5:15 p.m.

In a secret compartment under the basement floor of a house on the 1500 block of Marengo, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents last Wednesday found between $100,000 and $200,000 in cash. Also found in the single-story house were 13 guns and half an ounce of heroin.

Two men who list this house as their address are among 29 arrested last week as federal and state authorities busted a massive drug ring they say was a $10,000-a-day operation on Chicago’s West Side.

Forest Park residents Erik Guevara, 27, and Rickey Ruiz, 19, have been charged with federal conspiracy to distribute more than 1,000 grams of heroin, a charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, and a maximum of life in prison and a fine of $4 million.

According to a 230-page complaint, Guevera, known on the street as Fat Ass, was one of two heroin suppliers to ring leader Dana Bostic, a dealer known as Mello, Bird and Big Gangsta. Ruiz is listed as one of four people in Guevera’s drug-trafficking organization.

The Marengo address is the third of seven key operational addresses for the drug ring that, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, sold drugs – usually $10 “dime bags” of heroin – on street corners in an area on the West Side bounded by Kostner, Pulaski, Jackson and Congress Parkway.

Public records show the owner of the house on Marengo as a woman who, at age 86, died in 2005. It’s not clear who has since managed the single-story home with a two-car garage. The criminal complaint makes reference to a black Land Rover parked in the garage and to Guevara and a woman being under surveillance near the Land Rover and the house.

The sting, which was started in October, was called Operation Bird Cage and was run by the DEA and Chicago police.

DEA agents tapped phones of several suspects, including Guevara, translating hours of profane, coded speech to determine who was involved and where sales took place. The operation featured a cast of characters with such nicknames as B Smooth, White Boy, Beano, Jigga, Truck and Chris Rock.

Guevara and Ruiz were under surveillance for weeks, during which the two were, according to the DEA, seen making suspicious transactions at a series of Cicero currency exchanges. During a traffic stop two weeks ago, police and federal agents seized a drive shaft from the back of a Jeep Cherokee driven by Guevara. They reportedly opened it and found almost 17 pounds of heroin hidden inside.

Wednesday Journal staff reporter Ben Meyerson contributed to this story.

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