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Transnational Gangs
08/07/2009

29 arrested in ICE-led, multi-agency operation targeting gang members

Enforcement action targets Las Vegas and Mesquite area gangs

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - A total of 29 gang members and gang associates, including many with serious criminal histories, are in custody this morning following a three-day multi-agency gang enforcement operation in Las Vegas and Mesquite, Nev., spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Two of the gang members arrested during the surge that began early Tuesday are facing federal criminal prosecution for re-entry after deportation. The others are foreign nationals who are being processed for deportation. The group taken into custody includes a Salvadoran national with ties to the notorious MS-13 gang, a citizen of Afghanistan, and a citizen of the Bahamas; the others are citizens of Mexico.

Joining ICE in the operation were officers from the LasVegas Metropolitan Police Department, the Mesquite Police Department and the Nevada Department of Public Safety (NDPS) Division of Parole and Probation and Division of Investigation.

The arrests were made as part of an ongoing initiative by ICE's National Gang Unit called Operation Community Shield. As part of the initiative, ICE partners with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to target the significant public safety threat posed by transnational street gangs.

"Street gangs pose a growing public safety threat to communities throughout this area," said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in the Las Vegas. "The violence and crime associated with these gangs has reached intolerable levels. ICE is working with its law enforcement partners here, and across the country, to attack and dismantle these criminal organizations."

The foreign national gang members and gang associates who were arrested on administrative immigration violations have been placed in removal proceedings. They will be held in ICE custody and scheduled for a deportation hearing before an immigration judge.

Most of the individuals arrested during the operation have criminal histories, including prior convictions for drug trafficking, weapons possession, kidnapping with a deadly weapon, home invasion, battery with a deadly weapon, coercing children with intent to engage in sexual conduct, grand larceny and theft. Luis Morales-Villapudua, 38, a Mexican national previously convicted of drug trafficking, has been criminally charged with re-entering the United States after deportation, a federal crime that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

"On behalf of the Mesquite Nevada Police Department and the entire Mesquite community, we would like to express our appreciation to ICE for the agency's continued efforts to assist us with the removal of criminal aliens from our streets," said Mesquite Police Chief Douglas L. Law. "Operation Community Shield allows us to share intelligence and manpower with our local and federal law enforcement partners to remove criminal aliens from our communities. This ongoing initiative is critical to maintaining the quiet and peaceful lifestyle our citizens have come to enjoy and expect."

"This operation was an opportunity to combine resources with our federal partners in an effort to rid our community of violent criminals," said Kirk Primas, commander of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's Gang Crimes Bureau.

"The Nevada Department of Public Safety Division of Parole and Probation was proud to participate in this multi-agency operation," said Lt. Adam Page. "We routinely supervise illegal aliens on parole or probation for committing felonies against the law-abiding citizens in our community. This operation will undoubtedly have a positive impact towards improving the safety of our neighborhoods."

Since Operation Community Shield began in February 2005, ICE agents nationwide have arrested more than 14,000 gang members and associates linked to more than 900 different gangs.
The National Gang Unit at ICE identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.
Through Operation Community Shield, the federal government uses its powerful immigration and customs authorities in a coordinated, national campaign against criminal street gangs in the United States. Transnational street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-born members and are frequently involved in human and contraband smuggling, immigration violations and other crimes with a connection to the border.

To report suspicious activity, call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1-866-347-2423 or visit www.ice.gov.