Federal authorities said Wednesday they disrupted a major drug trafficking network stretching from Mexico to six U.S. states, and investigators partially credited a Chicago-based task force that focuses on the nexus between Mexican cartels and street gangs.
Twenty-two suspects have been charged, with 14 of them arrested in Chicago, California, Pennsylvania and Iowa this week, the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago said in a statement Wednesday. The ring also allegedly extended to Oregon, Indiana and Ohio.
One of those charged is an alleged Chicago-area leader of the network, Victor Mata Madrigal, 37, of Lombard, who went by the nickname "Obama." He is accused of arranging bulk shipments of cocaine and marijuana from Mexico to Chicago, a hub for drug traffickers.
According to a criminal complaint, authorities seized nearly $4 million in cash raised by Madrigal in his suburban Chicago home in April 2013. He was arrested then and has been in jail since that seizure.
Criminal complaints include wiretap transcripts of the accused U.S. traffickers calling suppliers in Mexico.
In one instance, one alleged trafficker sends a text message to another telling him to get word to Madrigal that several suppliers believe he owes them money or drugs. "He better get straight with these people because they are VERY ANGRY," the text message says, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors' statement about the arrests partially credits the Chicago Strike Force, which has operated since 2013 out of a single headquarters — where dozens of agents, police and prosecutors have worked side-by-side to help avoid the miscommunication and inter-agency rivalry that can foil investigations.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy or possession with intent to distribute narcotics in three criminal complaints, and some could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted. They were scheduled to begin making initial appearances in federal court in Chicago on Thursday.
Court documents did not include an attorney for Madrigal. There was no residential phone listing for Madrigal in Lombard.