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27 arrested in DuPage, Cook counties in sweep targeting heroin distribution

Updated: September 30, 2013 2:14PM

A Naperville mother whose husband died of a heroin overdose earlier this year was among dozens of people arrested in a sweep targeting heroin distribution in DuPage and Cook counties, officials announced Wednesday.

“We have a heroin epidemic in this county,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin said. The county has seen an average of one heroin death every 8 1/2 days since the beginning of 2012, he said.

At least 27 people were arrested in Tuesday’s sweep. Seventeen of them were charged under Illinois’ newly enacted Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law. The case began in February with a heroin bust at a Carol Stream home, officials said.

Andres Garcia, 26, of Chicago, headed the heroin operation, which was supplied by Mexican cartels, prosecutors said. The operation allegedly sold up to $3,000 of heroin every day.

Six of Garcia’s cellphones were wiretapped during the investigation, officials said. He was ordered held in lieu of $1.5 million bond.

Vanessa Hernandez, 25, was arrested Tuesday. She was being held on $1 million bond.

Hernandez, who allegedly carried out drug deals from her Chrysler Pacifica minivan, had 17 grams of heroin in her freezer and two guns in her home when she was arrested, officials said. Her husband died in the Cook County Jail of a heroin overdose earlier this year, Assistant DuPage County State’s Attorney Audrey Anderson said.

The DuPage Metropolitan Enforcement Group led the probe, assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the state police and 17 suburban police departments.

Jack Riley, head of the DEA in Chicago, said high-profile corruption charges against three Schaumburg cops in January prompted the DEA to work more closely with local law enforcement agencies in DuPage County.

The Schaumburg officers were charged with stealing from drug dealers and planting drugs on defendants. Afterward, Riley said he dedicated about 10 percent of his agents who aren’t working on a special task force to target heroin distribution in DuPage County.

“Schaumburg raised the awareness of the [drug] problem in DuPage County,” he said.

Berlin emphasized that heroin, which is about 10 times stronger now than in the ’70s, remains plentiful.

“Unfortunately, I think this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Contributing: Frank Main

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