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Chester County Press

Drug Strike Force wins national award

02/18/2015 10:04AM ● By Richard Gaw

Left to right: Chester County Detective Sergeant Robert J. Dougherty, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, and Jeremiah A. Daley, Executive Director of Philadelphia-Camden HIDTA.

The Chester County District Attorney’s Office High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Strike Force received the award for outstanding national drug investigation at the annual HIDTA Awards Ceremony on Feb. 5 in Washington, D.C.

The award was based on HIDTA’s work on Operation Telaraña (Operation Spiderweb), an investigation that dismantled a major Mexican drug trafficking organization in Southern Chester County.

Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said, "I have always said that Chester County law enforcement is among the finest in the nation. It is gratifying to see our law enforcement colleagues agree. This is a proud moment for Chester County."

The HIDTA program is administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The purpose of the program is to coordinate and assist local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to combat high-level drug trafficking. There are 28 HIDTA regions across the United States. The Chester County force is led by the Chester County Detectives, the investigative arm of the District Attorney’s Office.

The Strike Force received the award for most outstanding HIDTA drug investigation in the United States for Operation Telaraña. The team dismantled a Mexican drug trafficking organization run by Salvatore Lemus, who had direct ties to one of the major Mexican drug cartels and had drug connections throughout the United States. The local group had been operating for more than 20 years, had distributed up to 6,000 kilograms of cocaine, and had a reputation in the drug world as "untouchable."

During Operation Telaraña, the Chester County HIDTA Strike Force worked with cooperators, did intensive surveillance, and eventually engaged in a court-authorized wire-tap of cell phones used by the group. The investigation culminated with the arrest of 48 drug dealers, and the seizure of cash and vehicles.

The law enforcement organizations assisting in Operation Telaraña were: Chester County Detectives, DEA, HSI, Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Pennsylvania National Guard, Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Berks County District Attorney’s Office, Oxford Borough Police Department, Kennett Square Police Department, Coatesville Police Department, West Chester Borough Police Department, and the full time participation of a HIDTA Investigative Support Center (ISC) Analyst. Many of those agencies joined District Attorney Hogan at the National HIDTA Awards Ceremony to accept the honor for Operation Telaraña.

District Attorney Hogan added, "Operation Telaraña was a model of law enforcement cooperation and coordination. No single agency could have run this operation successfully, from gathering the initial leads all the way through the final arrests. But working together, we were an unstoppable force, destroying a longstanding and sophisticated drug operation. We will continue to work together to keep Chester County safe."