Updated 12/13/2011 12:55 p.m.

Forest Park Police, with the help of the West Suburban Directed Gang Enforcement task force (WEDGE), arrested Deko’s restaurant owner Mario Carrera, 47, Thursday night at the restaurant, 7445 W. Madison St., as part of a drug sting operation. Police seized 11 grams of cocaine at the restaurant, said Forest Park Police Chief Jim Ryan.

Carrera was allegedly “cutting up cocaine and selling it over the counter at Deko’s,” said Ryan.

Police executed a search warrant at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 8. A single customer, ordering a chicken burrito, was asked to leave, said Detective Sgt. Mike Keating.

Forest Park detectives were tipped off about possible drug sales at Deko’s by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), whose agents reportedly had made undercover cocaine buys at the restaurant. Ryan said the police used a confidential informant to make two controlled buys in the last two weeks.

“Officers found cocaine on [Carrera’s] person, in the back room and on a ledge in the kitchen,” said Ryan.

Some of the cocaine was knotted in the corners of plastic baggies, prepackaged for sale, said Keating. Police also seized $1,085 from Carrera’s person, Keating said.

Carrera, who lives in the 1200 block of South Elgin Avenue, was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, class 4 and class 1 felonies, respectively. He was processed at the Forest Park police station, but was taken overnight to Rush Oak Park Hospital after complaining of illness.

Deko’s, a hot dog stand with a Mexican menu, is a favorite among late-night weekend Madison Street drinkers, according to online reviews on restaurant site Yelp.com. The restaurant is 700 yards from the Forest Park police station, estimated Keating.

The restaurant remained closed on Saturday afternoon, with several passersby peering into the darkened windows. Online Facebook comments lamented the loss of the late-night post-boozing stop and defended Carrera. “I love the owner,” wrote Facebooker Rebecca Marie Lauris. “I hope he’s not in trouble.”

Even Forest Park police seemed disappointed in Carrera’s downfall. “Our officers go in there quite a bit for lunch,” said Ryan. “I talked to [Carrera] … it’s an embarrassment to the community.”

Carrera has a Dec. 29 court date in the Maywood courthouse.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...