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Transnational Gangs
03/01/2011

678 gang members and associates arrested during Project Southern Tempest

ICE makes arrest of 20,000th gang member

ICE makes arrest of 20,000th gang member
ICE makes arrest of 20,000th gang member
ICE makes arrest of 20,000th gang member
ICE makes arrest of 20,000th gang member
WASHINGTON - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced today the arrests of 678 gang members and associates from 133 different gangs during Project Southern Tempest, an intensive ICE HSI-led law enforcement operation executed in 168 U.S. cities targeting gangs affiliated with drug trafficking organizations (DTO).

Through Project Southern Tempest, ICE HSI agents worked side by side with 173 of our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to apprehend individuals from 13 gangs affiliated with DTOs in Mexico. More than 46 percent of those arrested during this operation were members or associates of gangs with ties to DTOs.

During this operation, which started in December 2010 and culminated in February 2011, the ICE HSI-led Salt Lake City Operation Community Shield Task Force arrested the 20,000th gang member since inception of the anti-gang program in 2005.

Transnational criminal street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-national members and are frequently involved in human smuggling and trafficking; narcotics smuggling and distribution; identity theft and benefit fraud; money laundering and bulk cash smuggling; weapons smuggling and arms trafficking; cyber crimes; export violations; and other crimes with a nexus to the border.

"Project Southern Tempest is the largest ever ICE-led gang enforcement operation targeting gangs with ties to drug trafficking organizations," said ICE Director John Morton. "Through gang enforcement operations like Project Southern Tempest and Project Big Freeze last year, ICE will continue to disrupt and dismantle these transnational gangs and rid our streets not only of drug dealers, but the violence associated with the drug trade."

"ICE is an important partner in bringing federal prosecutions against dangerous gang members," said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Quillian Yates. "Since Operation Community Shield began in 2005, ICE investigations in our District alone have resulted in numerous indictments against gang members, including charges for seven separate murders, at least five carjackings, several armed robberies and over 40 criminal immigration offenses. The partnership between ICE and our office serves to make neighborhoods stronger and safer by removing and prosecuting criminal gang members."

"By pooling our resources and our intelligence, we've succeeded in taking some very dangerous people off of the streets," said South Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Snyder. "Our goal in partnering with ICE and other law enforcement agencies is to make our cities safer. The gang members and drug dealers targeted in this operation have no regard for the law and their continued illegal activities degrade the quality of life in our communities."

Of the 678 gang members or associates arrested:

  • they hailed from 133 different gangs;
  • 447 were charged with criminal offenses;
  • 231 were administrative arrests;
  • 322 had violent criminal histories;
  • 421 were foreign nationals.

In addition to the 678 arrests, 164 individuals were arrested for federal and/or state criminal violations, or administrative immigration violations. Of the 164, 117 were charged with criminal offenses, 46 had violent criminal histories, 47 were administrative arrests and 78 were foreign nationals. In addition to the arrests, during the operation agents seized 86 firearms, eight pounds of methamphetamine, 30 pounds of marijuana, one pound of cocaine, more than $70,000 in U.S currency and two vehicles.

Like any street gang, these transnational gangs also have a propensity toward violence. Their members committed a number of violent crimes including robbery, extortion, assault, rape and murder.

Among those arrested during Project Southern Tempest were:

  • Andrey Melnikov, 36, a Russian national with legal permanent residence status and an associate of the Valleros gang was arrested in Oceanside, Calif., for auto theft. His criminal convictions include possession of weapon on school grounds/carrying loaded firearm public place and felon in possession of a firearm.
  • Cesar Enrique Barreiro, 27, a U.S. citizen and member of the Lennox 13 gang was arrested in Lennox, Calif., for RICO charges from an ongoing multi-agency investigation. His criminal convictions include for aggravated assault with serious bodily injury. He faces federal criminal prosecution on racketeering charges.
  • Shawn Allison, 32, a Jamaican national and member of the Jamaican Posse gang was arrested in Bronx, N.Y., for attempted murder. His convictions include possession with intent to distribute and criminal contempt. He faces state criminal prosecution on charges of attempted murder.
  • Rodimiro Burquez-Cortez, 34, a Mexican national and Surenos gang associate was arrested in Provo, Utah, for re-entry after deportation and narcotics and weapon offenses. His criminal convictions include illegal re-entry; carrying a concealed weapon, assault, DWI, illegal possession of controlled substance, possession of dangerous weapon. He faces federal criminal prosecution for re-entry of previously removed alien, illegal alien in possession of a firearm, and felon in possession of a firearm.
  • Gustavo Morales, 52, a Mexican national and an associate of the Boomerangz gang was arrested in Reading, Pa., for federal offenses related to narcotics and weapons violations. His criminal history has a conviction for re-entry. He faces federal prosecution for illegal re-entry and narcotics and weapon offenses.

Those arrested came from 24 countries in South and Central America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Of the total number of arrested, 776 were males and 72 were females.
This enforcement operation is part of Operation Community Shield, a global initiative, in which ICE HSI partners with existing federal, state, local and foreign anti-gang efforts to share intelligence on criminal gang organizations and their leadership, share resources and combine legal authorities to identify, locate, arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members.

ICE HSI began rolling out Operation Community Shield Task Forces (OCSTFs) throughout the nation as well as in Central America in 2010. There are currently eight OCSTFs in cities including Baltimore; Birmingham, Ala.; Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Salt Lake City; San Angelo, Texas; and St. Paul, Minn., as well as one in Honduras. It is these critical partnerships with law enforcement here in the United States and overseas that enables ICE HSI to target a gang's structural leadership and criminal enterprise in the U.S. and in their countries of origin.

Since the inception of Operation Community Shield in 2005, through Jan. 31, 2011, ICE HSI agents working in conjunction with federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies have arrested 20,373 gang members and associates. These apprehensions include 9,590 criminal arrests and 10,783 civil arrests. Of the more than 20,000 arrests, 249 of those arrested were gang leaders, 3,414 were MS-13 members or associates and 7,699 had violent criminal histories. Through this initiative, more than 1,600 firearms have been taken off the streets.

The National Gang Unit within ICE HSI identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements to deter, disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from illicit activities.

Federal agencies involved in Project Southern Tempest include the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and the U.S. Marshals Service.

To report suspicious activity, call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or visit www.ice.gov.