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Transnational Gangs
07/16/2010

30 gang members and associates arrested in western Colorado during ICE-led multi-agency operation

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. - Assisted by local law enforcement agencies, the local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 30 men and women during a five-day operation targeting foreign-born gang members and their associates. This is the latest local effort in an ongoing national ICE initiative to target foreign-born gang members and gang associates.

Garfield County Sheriff's Office and Carbondale, Colo., Police Department provided significant assistance to ICE during the operation. The following other Colorado-area law enforcement agencies also participated: Colorado State Patrol, Eagle County Sheriff's Office, Montrose County Sheriff's Office, Silt Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The ICE Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) is coordinating the detention and deportation of the aliens being returned to their home countries.

The multi-agency operation, which ended July 16, targeted gang members and associates engaged in organized criminal activity. Twenty four of those arrested during this operation are known gang members, six are gang associates. Those arrested are from the following five gangs: Bloods, Mexican Mafia-Azteca, MS 13, SUR 13, and Sureños.

Following is the breakdown by Colorado city of those arrested during the operation: Carbondale - 11, Rifle - 6, El Jebel - 6, Glenwood Springs - 5, Battlement Mesa - 1, and Montrose - 1. Four of those arrested were women.

Two U.S. citizens and two illegal alien gang members were arrested on state criminal warrants or charges. The other gang members and associates in ICE custody are charged with administrative immigration violations and are awaiting deportation. Those held on immigration violations are from El Salvador and Mexico; they are being held at the Park County Jail and the GEO detention facility in Aurora, Colo.

ICE agents discovered that one of the SUR 13 gang members possessed cocaine at the time he was encountered. Another transnational gang member had been convicted of sexually assaulting a minor. Three of the aliens arrested had been previously deported. It is a felony to re-enter the United States after having been deported.

Information received by ICE-HSI and other law enforcement indicates that criminal gangs, such as the Surenos and others, are becoming increasingly involved in Colorado with smuggling and distributing narcotics and other criminal activities.

"By partnering with local law enforcement agencies, we can identify, arrest and remove the criminal gang members from the streets who may be responsible for a significant portion of crime in the area," said Kumar C. Kibble, special agent in charge of the ICE HSI office in Denver. "For many of the transnational gang members, ICE can also ultimately remove them from the country as well." Kibble oversees a four-state area which includes Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.

"Garfield County Sheriff's Office and our specialized Threat Assessment Group (TAG) played an integral role with ICE in this week's anti-gang operation," said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario. "During the 18 months of its existence, TAG was specifically designed to address gang-related activity, and remove criminal aliens from our streets."

"We appreciate ICE's efforts that resulted in several arrests of suspected gang-affiliated persons which contribute to the improvement of the quality of life within the community," said Gene Schilling, Carbondale, Colo., police chief.

The arrests were made as part of Operation Community Shield, a national initiative whereby ICE partners with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target the significant public safety threat posed by transnational criminal street gangs. Since Operation Community Shield began in February 2005, ICE agents nationwide have arrested more than 17,500 gang members and associates linked to more than 900 different gangs. More than 200 of those arrested were gang leaders.

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 seized activities.