RIVERSIDE, Calif.– More than 150 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers served search and arrest warrants Thursday morning at locations in the Southern California communities of Riverside and Fontana as part of a two-year multi-agency investigation focusing on members of two violent street gangs with ties to firearms and narcotics trafficking.
The enforcement action targeted members and associates of the Casa Blanca street gangs who are charged in federal and state court documents with a host of crimes, including acts of violence, firearms violations and narcotics sales. Of the five defendants located and taken into custody Thursday, two were arrested on state charges and parole violations, and three were arrested based on federal indictments. During the enforcement action, investigators also seized illegal drugs along with two firearms and ammunition.
The charges stem from investigations involving various federal, state, county and local agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Riverside/Jurupa Valley Regional Gang Task Force (GTF); the West County Narcotics Task Force (WCNTF); and the Riverside Police Department.
"Our collective enforcement efforts in this case have dealt a significant blow to one of the most dangerous street gangs here in the Inland Empire," said Debra Parker, the assistant special agent in charge who oversees ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. "Today's arrests should be welcome news for these communities, which have seen firsthand the blight of violence and crime that gangs like this incite. ICE Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work with its state and local law enforcement partners to attack and neutralize the gang threat and take back our streets."
"ATF will continue working with the Riverside Police Department to eradicate violent crime by putting violent criminals behind bars, utilizing state and federal laws to give the communities back to the citizens that reside there," said John A. Torres, special agent in charge ATF Los Angeles Field Division. "The arrests today will send a clear message to gang members that we, (law enforcement), are here to stay."
"The Riverside Police Department is very grateful to our federal law enforcement partners in Homeland Security Investigations, the DEA and the ATF, as well as the United States Attorney, for their vigorous pursuit of these violent criminals," said Riverside Chief of Police Sergio G. Diaz. "I am looking forward to seeing these gang members committed to significant incarceration in the federal prison system. I am confident that the results of this investigation will help bring peace and a sense of normalcy to the good people of Casa Blanca."
Local authorities say criminal street gangs have a long and violent history in the Casa Blanca area dating back more than 50 years. It is estimated there are more than 200 documented gang members in the community and approximately 60 gang associates. The gangs have been linked to homicides, narcotics trafficking and numerous acts of violence. That violence includes a shooting at a local drive-in theatre in August 2010 where rival gang members exchanged gunfire, leaving two injured and causing frightened movie patrons to flee for their lives.