Narcotics task force takes aim at Mexico to Chicago drug trafficking

Head of DEA’s Chicago office says men arrested on Chicago’s West Side are connected to Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel.

June 21, 2013

By: Patrick Smith

WBEZ/Robert Wildeboer
File: Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy at a press conference in July 2011.

A team of federal agents and police officers arrested 21 men allegedly involved in drug dealing on Chicago’s West Side.

Jack Riley, head of the Chicago office of the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration, said the arrests were the first major case for a new narcotics strike force.

Early on Thursday, the strike force executed search warrants on nine Chicago residences and two cars, arresting 21 alleged drug dealers.

Another two men who were also indicted are still at large.

The arrested men are due in court for hearings next week.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, the men arrested were allegedly involved in selling cocaine and heroin in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The arrests were the result of a nine-month investigation that is still ongoing.

Along with the arrests, law enforcement officials seized about three pounds of heroin and nearly nine pounds of cocaine.

Special Agent Riley said the drugs would be worth millions of dollars on the street.

“Another great day for the good guys here in Chicago,” Riley said at a press conference announcing the drug bust.

He said the arrests were part of a continuing effort to cripple the supply of drugs from Mexico into Chicago.

Specifically, this operation was aimed at finding and bringing down what Riley called the “choke point” where the Sinaloa drug cartel and Chicago street dealers connect.

“We’ve got to make the connections, even if it takes us back into Mexico and Central and South America. The idea is to eliminate the organizations,” Riley said.

He added that when he and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy discussed the narcotic strike force last year they “envisioned it doing exactly what it did today.”

McCarthy said the new task force works because the Chicago Police Department and the DEA have different, but complementary aims.

For the police, the goal is to “eliminate street corner markets” and make Chicago safer, and for the DEA it is to find the larger drug suppliers.

With the task force, McCarthy said, the work his department does on the ground can help the federal agents in their pursuit of high-level drug traffickers. And the investigations done by the DEA can aid the Chicago police.

McCarthy said the drug bust will have a big impact on crime in Chicago

“Much of the violence on the West Side of Chicago … a lot of it revolves around the narcotics trade,” McCarthy said.

Patrick Smith is a WBEZ reporter.