Chesco drug strike force wins national award


Chester County Detective Sergeant Robert J. Dougherty, Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, and Jeremiah A. Daley, Executive Director of Philadelphia-Camden HIDTA, share a moment with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area award presented to Chester County law enforcement officials this week.

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

Local law enforcement officials expressed pride at the award.

“I have always said that Chester County law enforcement is among the finest in the nation,” Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said in a statement. “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 HIDTA Strike Force is part of the Philadelphia-Camden area region. The Chester County HIDTA Strike Force is led by the Chester County Detectives, the investigative arm of the District Attorney’s Office.

The Chester County HIDTA Strike Force received the award for most outstanding HIDTA drug investigation in the United States for Operation Telaraña. In Operation Telaraña, the Chester County team dismantled a Mexican drug trafficking organization in Southern Chester County run by Salvatore Lemus (the “Lemus DTO”). The Lemus DTO had direct ties to one of the major Mexican drug cartels and had drug connections throughout the United States. The Lemus DTO had been operating for over 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 cellular phones used by the Lemus DTO. The investigation culminated with the execution of multiple simultaneous search warrants, the arrest of 48 drug dealers, and the seizure of cash and vehicles used by the Lemus DTO.

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 Hogan at the National HIDTA Awards Ceremony to accept the honor for Operation Telaraña.

“The coordinated effort among agencies working with the Chester County HIDTA Task Force in Operation Telaraña is an excellent example of how law enforcement collaboration can yield major outcomes benefiting public safety in Chester County and other parts of the nation,” said Jeremiah Daley, Executive Director of the Philadelphia-Camden HIDTA area. “Not only was a long-standing and well-entrenched cocaine trafficking organization dismantled locally, but the investigation disrupted a network that operated in four other states and reached into a Mexican drug cartel. The tenaciousness of the investigators from a dozen agencies, led by the Chester County DA’s Office, is most deserving of this national recognition, and is a great source of pride to the Philadelphia-Camden HIDTA.”

The success of the operation, Hogan said, was a matter of teamwork by local, county, state and federal agencies.

“Operation Telaraña was a model of law enforcement cooperation and coordination,” Hogan said. “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 long- standing and sophisticated drug operation. We will continue to work together to keep Chester County safe.”

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