A man was being held on $5 million bond Tuesday after being charged with shooting at police following a chase that led to the discovery of $22 million worth of marijuana in a warehouse in Wood Dale.
Police also recovered $107,000 in cash.
Nicholas Valentino, 33, of Des Plaines, was charged with armed violence, unlawful possession of cannabis and other controlled substances, and weapons charges.
Thursday night, prosecutors said, officers with the DuPage County Metropolitan Enforcement Group, or DuMeg, were conducting surveillance at a Wood Dale warehouse suspected of being used for illegal drug dealing.
The agents saw a van and a Volkswagen, which police said Valentino was driving, leave the warehouse. Agents tailed the vehicles into Chicago before breaking off surveillance but later saw the van again and tried to stop it.
On a residential street in Wood Dale, the van flashed its headlights and stopped suddenly, and in an apparent ambush, Valentino allegedly appeared on the street with a gun and fired two shots at the agents’ unmarked car, prosecutors said. The agents backed up their car and were not hit.
Valentino allegedly got back into the Volkswagen and sped off with the van, prosecutors said, before agents chased them onto Route 83, where the two vehicles split up, and agents followed the Volkswagen.
Shortly thereafter, the Volkswagen collided with a Bensenville squad car and an unmarked DuMeg squad car that were responding to the incident, and Valentino was arrested.
In the center console of the Volkswagen, officers said they found a full magazine for an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. At the scene of the shooting, police said they found two spent .223 caliber assault rifle shell casings and one live .223 round, the same type of ammunition in the Volkswagen.
Prosecutors said an AR-15-style assault rifle with no magazine and one round jammed in the chamber was found in Bensenville on a residential street, where police believe Valentino allegedly had thrown it from the car.
The next day at the warehouse, authorities executed a search warrant and said they found approximately 40 pallets of vacuum-sealed cannabis weighing 7,688 pounds, 406 pounds of cannabis edibles, 6,891 THC vaping cartridges and more than 700 grams of psilocybin mushroom bars.
Prosecutors said the cannabis seizure was the largest in memory in DuPage County. Authorities also recovered an AK-47 rifle and 9 mm ammunition, and financial records. The case remains under investigation.
DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin credited DuMeg agents for arresting a suspected violent drug dealer despite being shot at.
“The allegations against Mr. Valentino are completely outrageous,” Berlin said. “While recreational marijuana is legal in Illinois, the allegations that Mr. Valentino was in possession of such large quantities of marijuana underscores the fact that there is a thriving illegal black market that demands the attention of law enforcement.”
“Illinois is no different than every other state that’s legalized marijuana,” Berlin said in a phone interview. “People think it’s going to dry up the black market, but that’s not been the experience. Legal marijuana is always going to be more expensive because of the taxes.”
Valentino was scheduled for arraignment June 28.