CHICAGO (WLS) -- Tips from south of the border led a new drug-fighting task force in Chicago to intercept two huge shipments of heroin during a 48-hour window last weekend, the I-Team has learned.
Nearly 62 pounds of heroin was seized by the Drug Gang Task Force led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Chicago. Once processed for street sales, the heroin would have yielded an estimated $16.5 million dollars from heroin customers according to DEA officials.
The first bust occurred Friday evening on the South Side of Chicago, federal agents told the I-Team. One man was arrested during the takedown although DEA officials declined to provide details saying the case was still under investigation. The alleged operative has not been charged, they said.
The first seizure was described as nearly pure heroin.
"That 95% heroin is not hitting the street, it's being cut and it's being put into user amounts being sold in the open air markets on the west side of Chicago, the call-in markets on the south side of Chicago," said DEA task force leader Don Rospond. "If you broke that kilo down and actually used the proper cut I would say that kilo could be turned into 10 or more kilos" on the streets.
Video obtained by the I-Team of the 24 pounds of drugs show packages shaped like hockey pucks that authorities say were half-kilos of heroin wrapped in black electrical tape. Other smuggled containers of heroin were rectangular and shaped more like a TV remote control. Some of the heroin was shipped in gallon-sized plastic storage bags.
The drugs were intercepted during an undercover purchase by a federal agent who had infiltrated the cartel supply line.
Joining DEA agents on the task force are officers and investigators from the FBI, ATF, Homeland Security, Illinois State Police and the Chicago Police Department.
The squad's second seizure of the weekend occurred last Sunday, less than 48 hours after the first bust. Task force agents say they seized nearly 38 pounds of heroin from a "choke point," the junction in the supply line between Mexico drug cartels and the Chicago street gang leaders who oversee retail sales here.
"They want those drugs to be sold on the streets of Chicago or any major city so they can get that money back across the border" said Brian McKnight, Special Agent-In-Charge of the Chicago DEA field office. McKnight said the Mexico drug cartels depend on cash flow "so that they can pay their transporters, pay off political corruption to get that dope up into the United States."
In the past year alone McKnight said DEA/Chicago has seized more than 1,000 pounds of heroin. Despite that amount of heroin intercepted, it is what gets through to the streets that has created the need for a new counter-drug task force in Chicago, McKnight said.
"We're only seizing 15% of the dope that comes in, so look at the magnitude of what comes in to Chicago" he said. "These task forces have a positive effect on reducing some of the violence here in the city. We want to make the city safer by arresting the drug traffickers and pulling the money off the streets out of the hands of these drug criminals, and seizing the weapons that they do every day here in Chicago" McKnight told the I-Team.
New drug-fighting squad knocks down two Chicago heroin operations in two days