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  • ABC 7 Chicago

    Indiana beauty queen Glenis Zapata indicted on trafficking charges linked to Mexico drug cartel

    27 days ago

    An Indiana beauty pageant winner has been indicted in Chicago and linked to a major drug cartel.

    Glenis Zapata, 34, was crowned Miss Indiana Latina in 2011. Now she is named in an indictment by a federal grand jury in Chicago and is facing trafficking charges. She is accused of transporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug proceeds.

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    Recently Zapata had been working as a flight attendant, but according to federal authorities she was also attending to the movement of drug cartel cash onboard jetliners into Mexico, including a private jet first reported by the ABC7 I-Team in 2022.

    That jet landed at the Gary, Indiana airport from Mexico with 20 pounds of cocaine packed in several suitcases.

    Cartel operatives arrested in the private jet have already been prosecuted and imprisoned.

    RELATED: 3 admitted drug smugglers who hauled cocaine on private jet from Mexico to Gary get light sentences

    According to the new indictment, Glenis Zapata is charged along with her sister, 33-year-old Ilenis, also from Lafayette, who is an Indiana bank employee who allegedly helped launder drug proceeds by swapping low denomination bills for higher ones. A second bank employee, 39-year-old Georgian Banuelos, is also charged.

    Authorities say the kingpin of the drug trafficking organization is 41-year-old fugitive Oswaldo Espinosa, alias "Scrambler."

    READ MORE: 41 charged in drug trafficking ring linked to cartel, officials say

    From 2018 to 2023, Espinosa allegedly moved cocaine from Mexico to Chicago and other cities using warehouses, garages, and stash houses to inventory the drugs and cash.

    For Glenis Zapata, her arrest is a fall from the glory of her beauty pageant days in 2011 when she was heralded as the first Latina pageant winner from Indiana ever to make the top 10 at the US pageant.

    Bail reports have been posted in Chicago federal court for both of the Zapata sisters, indicating they are now in custody. A court schedule has not yet been posted for the newly accused drug traffickers.

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