DuPage, Cook drug sweep results in 27 arrests - Los Angeles Local News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Heroin Epidemic: Suburban drug bust sends 27 to jail

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WHEATON, Ill. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

A young Naperville mother whose husband was killed by a heroin overdose earlier this year was among 27 people arrested Tuesday in a comprehensive sweep targeting heroin distribution in DuPage and Cook counties.

Listed as a "150 gram customer," Vanessa Hernandez, 25, also is one of 17 charged under Illinois' newly-enacted Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, the Aurora Beacon-News is reporting.

Hernandez, of the 700 block of Royal St. George Drive in Naperville, is being held on $1 million bond. If convicted, she faces nine to 40 years in prison.

Officials said that with support from a network of lieutenants to run the drug to a population of customers, the suspects and several others still on the loose were responsible for the sale of $2,500 to $3,000 worth of the potentially deadly drug daily.

"These transactions were very quick," said lead prosecutor Audrey Anderson, supervisor of the DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group. DuMEG carried out the six-month investigation assisted by state police, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and 17 suburban police departments, including Naperville's.

Anderson said Hernandez, who allegedly carried out drug deals from her Chrysler Pacifica minivan, had 17 grams of heroin in her freezer, along with plastic bags and a drug scale, and two guns in her home when she was arrested.

Hernandez' husband Christopher died in Cook County Jail recently from a fatal heroin overdose, Anderson said.

Officials allege that Andres Garcia, 26, of Chicago, ran the operation with help from six inexpensive cell phones that were wiretapped as part of the surveillance work leading to the charges filed this week.

Specific quantities were not available, but DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin said the amount of heroin seized in Tuesday's raids was "numerous kilos," most of it uncut.

Anderson, who Wednesday morning outlined the charges against each suspect in a two-hour bond call before 18th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth W. Sexton, described several seizures in which the heroin was "right off the brick."

Heroin-related deaths in Chicago have actually declined, yet they're up by 200 percent in the suburbs. DuPage has tallied an average of one heroin death every 8 1/2 days since the start of 2012.

"We have a heroin epidemic in this county," said Berlin, adding that the charges send a message to those still dealing.

Jack Riley, a special agent with the DEA who oversees five Midwestern states, called Wednesday "a great day for the good guys" in DuPage. He said the battle now is targeting organizations such as the one Garcia allegedly ran.

"This is the new face of organized crime," Riley said. "Don't kid yourself."

He later said the operation targeted by the collaborative investigation was "clearly the work of Mexican cartels."

"This is the way we're gonna do business from this point forward. We're gonna go after organizations. from the people putting it on the street, the people transporting it, all the way down to sources of supply, wherever that takes us, whether that's in Mexico, central or South America," Riley says.

Berlin emphasized that the heroin on the streets today, which is about 10 times stronger than the version used in the 1960s and 1970s, remains plentiful.

"Unfortunately, I think this is just the tip of the iceberg," he said.

Garcia remains in jail on a $1.5 million bond. Police say when they pulled him over earlier this year they found $6,000 cash in his car. His explanation: he's an electrician. They didn't buy it.

FOX 32's Dane Placko contributed to this report.

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