Gun Runner's Alley: Indiana to Chicago gun pipeline leads to arrest of recent Illinois parolee

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Thursday, July 30, 2020
Indiana to Chicago gun pipeline leads to arrest of recent Illinois parolee
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Exclusive: Illinois ex-con was under surveillance in fed's effort to interrupt illegal gun sales.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The recent arrest of an Illinois parolee has helped expose continued activity on an Indiana-to-Chicago gun pipeline.

Federal gun agents suspect a large portion of the arsenals behind Chicago's street gang shooting war have come from Indiana as state-line gun-runners bring back illegal pistols and rifles for eager buyers.

Now, investigators say they have one such gun runner and some of his guns in their custody.

The interstate connecting Illinois to Indiana has become a gun-runner's alley in recent years according to federal law enforcement officials and the Chicago Police Department.

Benjamin Cortez-Gomez is in the federal lock-up after authorities say he was caught in the middle of a gun deal with a confidential ATF informant while allegedly setting up a gun purchase for a friend.

Authorities say the 27-year-old has a violent felony history in Illinois going back to 2011 and is fresh out of state prison after being released on parole in March.

U.S. prosecutors say Cortez-Gomez returned quickly to his illicit gun business. In the complaint, he can be seen standing tall in front of his car allegedly used to run guns, under the social media name Bennie Blanco. He tells a purported customer, "I got this one for you, 900" under a picture of a snub-nose revolver. Another message states, "I got a 45 for sale" and a photo of a compact 45, according to the complaint.

On Monday, after following Cortez-Gomez to Indiana, ATF agents curbed his car on the return trip home at 59th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway. In his trunk, they say seven neatly packaged weapons were recovered.

AS of now, he is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

Cortez-Gomez's felony record winds back to the gun-runner's alley 80-94. It was on the same highway two years ago that a car he commandeered was chased and stopped by police, shutting down the expressway in both directions for hours. The unlawful restraint conviction landed him in jail until a few months ago.

In 2014, the accused gunrunner made several posts to his Facebook page, including one with a photo of the "Welcome to Indiana" sign that spans the interstate. He also posted a comment under his name that says, "Heading to Indiana for them fireworks." On another occasion, he posted, "On my way to Indiana on a road trip."

The government's informant says Cortez-Gomez has made multiple trips to the Indianapolis area to buy guns.