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Man pleads not guilty for solicitation in murder-for-hire case

Mario Cruz

Mario Cruz

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Updated: February 16, 2014 6:24AM

A Waukegan man charged with solicitation to commit murder for hire pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning in Lake County Circuit Court.

Mario Cruz, 38, is being held on $1 million bond in Lake County Jail as the alleged middleman in a scheme to hire someone to kill a man supposedly having an affair with the wife of Rafael Vargas, 46, of Waukegan, who faces the same charges.

Cruz pleaded not guilty to two counts of solicitation of murder for hire, a Class X felony which carries a mandatory minimum of six to 30 years in prison upon conviction, and a potentially longer term if the charges are enhanced.

Vargas is scheduled for arraignment Jan. 23, and is also in Lake County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond.

According to officials, the two men tried to arrange a contract killing in late November on a man Vargas believed was having an affair with his wife. Vargas allegedly decided to hire someone to kill the man and Cruz allegedly helped locate a contract murderer, but according to prosecutors, the men were in the process of trying to set up the murder when undercover officers of the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group (MEG) became involved in the case.

Vargas paid $1,000 to an undercover officer on Nov. 22, officials said, and was planning to deliver another $7,000 on Nov. 26, after the two men believed the hit had been accomplished.

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