WEST CHESTER, Pa. (WPVI) --Wednesday morning Chester County authorities announced arrests in a suspected drug ring.
The district attorney says a Mexican drug cartel was operating in the county, and that members of the drug operation managed to blend in with the Hispanic community in the area.
At a press conference today Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said, "This is the largest drug prosecution in the history of Chester County."
Prosecutors say Salvador Lemus, dubbed "El Viejo" (the old one), led the Lemus drug trafficking organization in southern Chester County.
44 of Lemus' alleged soldiers are now under arrest and more than a dozen others are on the run.
Local, state, and federal authorities began their investigation a year ago. They say Lemus had direct ties to the La Familia drug cartel in Mexico and that he was a major supplier of cocaine in our area.
"They come from the Mexican cartels. They will kill you if you cooperate [with authorities]. These are groups that kill cops, kill prosecutors, kill judges, and don't think twice about killing civilians," Hogan explained.
Investigators say Lemus used a Maryland landscaping business and other enterprises to launder and hide his drug proceeds. The tentacles of his drug empire stretch to Chicago, Charlotte, Houston, and Phoenix.
Hogan says, "Just like the airlines have hubs, the drug trafficking organizations have hubs. So all of those hubs are receiving drugs from Mexico and shipping them into southern Chester County, where they are being redistributed out into the region."
Those arrested remain behind bars in Chester County. Lemus' bail was set at $1 million cash.