CHICAGO — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's main man in Chicago is so confident in a new strike force aimed at stopping drug trafficking that he predicted big busts in the coming weeks.
"In the next few weeks, you're going to see us swing the bat," DEA agent Jack Riley said Thursday at a press conference announcing that Sinaloa drug cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzman Loera is the new Public Enemy No. 1.
Riley said the force, comprised of city and federal law enforcement, is attacking the system that traffics Sinaloa weed, cocaine and heroin to Chicago streets via local gangs.
When asked why he would publicize the tactics of the strike force in advance of any major busts, Riley said it was to showcase the law enforcement personnel who are on the often-dangerous front line of the fight.
"I wish I could move the clock ahead a month," he said.
Riley also said he delayed his own retirement a few years ago in order to collar the kingpin known as "El Chapo."
"I'm staying till this guy's hooked up," he said.
Guzman has Chicago in his clutches and uses area gangs to distribute his array of narcotics, Arthur Bilek, executive vice president of the Chicago Crime Commission, said Thursday.
"He's operating right now in Chicago and surrounding areas," Bilek said.
More than 90 percent of the drugs peddled in the city come from the Sinaloa, Riley said.
Most gang violence in Chicago is drug related, Riley said.
"There's a direct link between him and the violence in the streets," he said. "Sinaloa has to interact with street gangs. They're extremely vulnerable there."
Chicago is "a great logistical place to set up shop" for the narcotics game, Riley said.
The things that lure legitimate business also bring in illegitimate enterprises, he said.
Chicago's large Mexican population also gives Sinaloa affiliates an honest populace to hide among, Riley said.
Guzman is believed to be holed up in a rural area of Mexico's western Sierra Madre, surrounded by an army of armed acolytes, according to the crime commission.
Even if he is eventually captured, it remains unclear if the Mexican government would extradite him to the U.S.
Guzman has bought off a bevy of public officials in Mexico, yet Riley said he was optimistic the Mexican government would hand him over if and when he is captured.
Riley praised his Mexican partners, but also said kingpins like Guzman fear extradition to the U.S. because the justice system is so much less corrupt.
Guzman has already been indicted in absentia in the U.S. District Court's Northern District of Illinois, Riley said.
"The good guys play by the rules," Riley said. "Chapo doesn't."