FRESNO, Calif. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested 100 gang members and gang associates in the Central Valley over the last year as part of the agency's ongoing national anti-gang effort known as Operation Community Shield.
The 100 individuals taken into custody here by ICE as part of Operation Community Shield since February 2008 are foreign nationals with ties to violent street gangs. The statistics include ICE gang arrests in four Central Valley counties - Fresno, Madera, Merced and Tulare. The vast majority of those targeted were arrested on administrative immigration violations. They include foreign nationals who are deportable based upon prior felony convictions and aliens who entered the country without inspection. Virtually all of those arrested have criminal records, including prior convictions on charges ranging from kidnapping and assault to firearms violations and robbery.
At least one of the suspected gang members is being prosecuted on felony criminal charges. Moises Gonzalez-Cruz, a purported "shot caller" in a local clique of the Sureno street gang, was arrested in Madera, Calif., on June 5, 2008, following his indictment for re-entering the United States after deportation. The 36-year-old pleaded guilty to the charges in September and is currently serving 30 months in federal prison.
Other gang members arrested recently by ICE include a Mexican national with ties to the Pocos Pero Locos clique of the Sureno street gang who has prior felony criminal convictions for carrying a concealed firearm and participating in a street gang. The 21-year-old was taken into custody in Madera, Calif., yesterday by ICE agents. The gang member, who goes by the moniker "Lil' Crazy," has been placed in deportation proceedings.
The criminal and administrative arrests are part of Operation Community Shield, an ongoing nationwide initiative in which ICE is partnering with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to address the public safety threat posed by transnational gangs. Over the course of the last year, the ICE Office of Investigations in Fresno has worked closely with several area law enforcement agencies to target street gang members.
"These arrest statistics are further proof of ICE's major role in combating the spread of gangs and gang-related crime here in the Central Valley," said Brian Poulsen, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Fresno. "Our immigration and customs authorities are proving to be powerful weapons in this effort and we'll continue working closely with local law enforcement to attack and dismantle the gangs that have terrorized our communities. In cases where gang members are in the United States illegally, we not only remove them from the community, we seek to remove them from the country."
As part of Operation Community Shield, ICE works with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target transnational street gangs. Transnational street gangs have a significant number of foreign-born members and are frequently involved in human and contraband smuggling, immigration violations and other crimes with a connection to the border.
Since Operation Community Shield was launched in 2005, ICE has arrested more than 12,000 gang members and associates nationwide and seized more than 470 firearms. Of those arrested, 154 were gang leaders.
Editor's note: Brian Poulsen, Resident Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Fresno, will be available at ICE's office - 855 M Street, Suite 910 - after 1:00 p.m. today for media interviews. To schedule an interview, contact ICE Special Agent Mike Prado in advance at (559) 457-7214. In addition, file footage and digital photos of ICE gang enforcement operations are available. To obtain copies, contact Special Agent Prado.