MIAMI - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents here, in close partnership with numerous local law enforcement officers, made 321 arrests in an operation targeting trans-national and violent criminal street gangs in South Florida. The enforcement operation included the arrest of 59 transnational gang members and associates during this latest joint local action of an ongoing national ICE effort to target gang members.
These arrests were made under an ongoing national ICE initiative called "Operation Community Shield," in which ICE partners with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to address the significant public safety threat posed by transnational street gangs. Partnerships with local law enforcement agencies are essential to the success of the initiative, and they help further ensure officer safety during the operations.
The multi-agency operation, which began June 18, 2008 and ended July 25, targeted criminal street gang members and associates in the South Florida area. Of those arrested, Task Force Members identified members or associates of the following gangs: MS-13, SUR-13, Uptown, Victory Park, Top Six, Bloods, 18th Street, 21 Jump, INP, FAME, Washington Park, 170 Boys, 90's Babies, Hollywood Squares, Leisure City and One Way.
Of those arrested, 308 face multiple criminal charges including state racketeering influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) conspiracy; drug possession, purchase and trafficking; firearms possession; outstanding bench warrants; and probation and parole violations. Some of the criminal histories associated with these individuals include attempted murder, resisting with violence, armed burglary, robbery, drug trafficking, and other violent crimes. All the individuals arrested are either out on bond pending their criminal cases or are being held in various detention centers throughout South Florida.
Those arrested are from Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Jamaica, El Salvador, Colombia, Chile, and the United States. Nineteen individuals were arrested on immigration charges including lawful permanent residents with criminal convictions, who are amenable to removal from the United States. One individual was identified as an aggravated felon that was previously deported and illegally re-entered the U.S. It is a felony to re-enter the United States after being formally deported punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.
"ICE has unique immigration and customs law enforcement authorities which complement the authorities of our federal, state and local partners," said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Miami. "Street gangs pose a growing public safety threat to communities throughout this area. ICE will use every tool at our disposal to rid the streets of gangs, and that includes placing those who are here illegally into immediate deportation proceedings."
ICE was assisted in the operation by the following agencies: U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air & Marine, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Gang Investigation Units of the Miami Dade Police Department, Broward County Sheriff's Office, City of Miami Police Department, Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, North Miami Beach Police Department, Miami Beach PD, Hialeah PD, Lake Worth PD, and Boynton Beach PD and the Florida Department of Probation.
Among those arrested include:
- David Paneque, 18, a Cuban national and leader of a SUR-13 Clicque. He was arrested on July 11 in Miami. Paneque is amenable for removal based on recent criminal convictions for attempted felony murder, robbery with a firearm and grand theft.
- Kinske St. Vilus, 33, a Bahamian national and leader of the Uptown Gang. He was arrested on June 18 in Miami for an open warrant on RICO conspiracy charges. He is amenable for removal based on recent criminal convictions including possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine and aggravated battery. In Feb. 2008, RICO conspiracy charges of gang members resulted in the dismantling of the drug cell of the Uptown Gang.
- Johnson Valcourt, 25, a Haitian national and member of the Uptown Gang. He was arrested on July 8 in Miami and is amenable for removal based on recent criminal convictions for armed burglary and grand theft.
- Cedric Johnson, 35, a U.S. citizen and member of the 21 Jump Gang. He was arrested on June 28 in Miami for possession of cocaine, marijuana and $5,174 in United States currency. The 21 Jump Gang is well known for drug trafficking and several other members and associates were also arrested during this enforcement operation.
Operation Community Shield is a national law enforcement initiative that partners ICE with other federal, state and local law enforcement, combining resources, authorities and expertise in an effort to target members of violent street gangs. Since ICE began Operation Community Shield in Feb. 2005, more than 10,150 gang members belonging to more than 700 different gangs have been arrested. More information on Operation Community Shield is available at: www.ice.gov.
The public is encouraged to report suspicious activity by calling ICE's toll-free hotline at: 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock.