Salvador Lemus, a 65-year-old Mexican native, allegedly operated a large cocaine operation out of a rural town in Pennsylvania for the last two decades. The operation was brought to a sudden halt last month; authorities announced “the largest drug prosecution in the history of Chester County,” which included 44 arrests.
According to The Unionville Times, Lemus’ “family business” collectively moved more than $100 million worth of cocaine.
Those arrested in connection with the drug ring included Lemus’ wife, daughter, nephew, and six other relatives. According to the District Attorney (DA) Tom Hogan, all defendants involved have potential to become violent. Hogan said, “They will kill you if you cooperate … They don’t think twice about killing civilians.”
Pennsylvania’s rural Chester County was the perfect location for a drug kingpin to run his operation, Hogan reportedly said at a news conference. The area is known for mushroom farming and is home to a significant Mexican-American population.
“It’s a good place for Mexican drug dealers to hide,” he said.
The drug ring’s cocaine was sent to cities around the U.S. such as Phoenix, Houston, Charlotte, and Chicago, according to the DA.
Hogan said that Lemus lived “modestly” in Pennsylvania. But back in Mexico–where he spent every winter–the drug lord enjoyed a life of luxury in his multiple lavish homes.
Fox News Latino reported that Lemus owned numerous businesses in order to launder his drug money.
Lemus was ultimately arrested thanks to a “well-placed wiretap” on his cell phone, according to Fox News Latino. He stored most of his cocaine in Pennsylvania auto shops.
Reports state that investigators in Chester County were suspicious of Lemus since he moved to the area 20 years ago. Hogan said, “Everybody knew that the Lemus’ [drug trafficking organization] was working in Chester County for decades. A lot of the Mexican community knew, but have family in Mexico and with the cartels there, there is always the fear of violence.”
Sylvia Longmire, a Breitbart Texas contributing editor and border security expert, said, “This sounds like a very standard drug distribution operation that extends from Mexico into the US interior. Ties to cartels usually aren’t very direct, as this insulates them from identification and prosecution, and the wholesalers and street dealers usually take the biggest hits. It’s great to get one more drug ring off the street, but in truth these were low-level people whose arrests won’t have any major impact on the cross-border flow of cocaine.”
A sting called “Operation Telarana” began one year ago in order to bust the drug ring. Telarana is Spanish for “spiderweb.” The takedown included numerous law enforcement agencies, according to The Unionville Times.
Cash, vehicles, weapons, and jewelry were allegedly confiscated during the raid on the defendants. In addition, figures of Santa Muerta and Jesus Malverde–both considered icons “saints” of drug dealers–were also confiscated, said Hogan.
Lemus is currently in jail since he failed to post a bail of $1 million. He reportedly faces more than 600 charges, most of which are drug-related, and is due back in court on June 2.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.
This piece has been updated with commentary from a Breitbart Texas border security expert.