By John Chambless
At a press conference on May 28, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan announced the arrests of 44 people in connection with a drug ring that operated quietly in southern Chester County for more than 20 years.
“We have taken down a Mexican drug cartel that was operating in southern Chester County, distributing cocaine in southern Chester County and around the United States," Hogan said. “This is the largest drug prosecution in the history of Chester County.”
Along with the 44 arrests, there are 12 more people wanted on outstanding warrants after the completion of “Operation Telaraña,” a probe targeting the drug network that had ties to the La Familia Mexican drug cartel.
Salvador Lemus, 65, was arrested on May 1 on charges that he was the leader of the cocaine trafficking network. His 23-year-old son, Francisco Lemus, was Lemus’ lieutenant. A nephew, Mario Hernandez Garcia, was also arrested.
Both Salvador and Francisco Lemus are in Chester County Prison on $1 million cash bail. Hernandez Garcia, another member of the organization, is also jailed on $250,000 cash bail. Others arrested includie Salvardor Lemus’ wife, Jovita Lemus.
Investigators found that Salvador Lemus was operating a landscaping company out of his simple rented home on Oak Tree Road in East Marlborough Township, and was serving as a distributor for cocaine shipped here by the Mexican cartel.
At the press conference, authorities estimated that Lemus’ network sold about two kilograms of cocaine each week. The network has operated in Chester County for 20 years, Hogan said. That means that, during that time, more than $60 million worth of cocaine was sold and distributed.
“The Lemus family drug trafficking organization was a long-standing drug trafficking organization in southern Chester County," Hogan said. "We picked up significant intelligence about their operations and all of us had taken a shot of them. Chester County Detectives, Pennsylvania State Police, DEA -- but they were extremely difficult to get into. They come from the Mexican cartels. They will kill you if you cooperate. These are groups that kill cops, kill prosecutors, kill judges, and don’t think twice about killing civilians.”
The investigation involved local and state police, the Philadelphia Camden High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, and the DEA. Arrests were made beginning on May 1.
Lemus, 65, is known as El Viejo ("The Old One"), Hogan said. He is jailed after failing to post $1 million cash bail. He is facing some 600 counts of conspiracy, possession, and drug-delivery charges and may be facing a life sentence.
Lemus is a U.S. citizen who had several homes in Mexico. He was not a member of the La Familia cartel, officials said, but his son was tied to the group, and the local drug operation distributed the cartel's cocaine. The drugs were distributed regionally in the tri-state area, officials said.
To launder the income from drugs, Lemus operated the landscaping company in East Marlborough, as well as one in the Baltimore area. Local auto shops were also opened for the purpose of storing and distributing the cocaine. Those businesses were not identified at the press conference.