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Cops arrest 10, seize large amount of drugs in Joliet sweep

Updated: February 10, 2013 5:51PM



JOLIET — Police arrested 10 drug dealers and seized more than 23 pounds of heroin and cocaine during a recent investigation, authorities said.

Some $232,000 was also recovered during “Operation Red Baron,” a joint operation between the Joliet Narcotics Unit, the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s office and the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad.

“This spun off from an investigation we began nearly two years ago,” Sgt. Jeremy Harrison said Tuesday. “We started gathering and sharing information with the FBI, who brought us a range of greater resources from ‘old school’ surveillance to the newest technology.”

Charges were recently unsealed in U.S. District Court in Chicago against Ramiro Sanchez, 54; Mario Magana, 33, Victor Lemus, 37; Jesus Gonzalez-Zambrano, 42; Ismael Garibay, 39; Miguel Lopez, 47; Jerry Hervey, 34; Antoine Matthews, 36; Lamar Egler, 33; and Lewis Hall, 38.

Like the feds and local police investigating them, the suspects allegedly cooperated as individual operations sharing the same network. Sanchez, Magana, Lemus, Gonzalez-Zambrano, Garibay, Lopez and Hervey are Joliet residents.

Matthews, Egler and Hall are from Cleveland, where police believe they resold the drugs they bought here.

Federal drug charges mean the suspects face a minimum 10 years or 30 years in prison depending on previous criminal history.

Starting in July, undercover officers made more than 20 drug deals at businesses, homes and public areas throughout the city, Harrison said.

“Some of these were hand-to-hand transactions and some drugs were seized during traffic stops. There were no small amounts,” he said.

According to reports, investigators seized 16-1/2 pounds of heroin and more than 6-1/2 pounds of cocaine in the operation.

The investigation remains active, but culminated with these arrests when Harrison and Chief Mike Trafton realized the amount of heroin “hitting the streets.”

“That’s more heroin that I ever thought I’d see in my life and to have it come in to your own town,” said Trafton, a former narcotics supervisor. “It’s saving lives to have that off the streets.”

Harrison said all of the drugs seized had very high purity levels and would likely have been cut down to be resold. He estimated more than $5 million in drugs was seized.



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