BOZEMAN, Mt. - Assisted by local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 10 men during a two-week operation targeting foreign-born gang members and their associates in Gallatin County. The following law enforcement agencies also participated in the operation: Gallatin County Sheriff's Department, the Missouri River Drug Task Force, and the West Yellowstone Police Department.
This is the latest local effort in an ongoing national ICE-HSI initiative to target foreign-born gang members and gang associates.
This multi-agency operation, which ended July 2, targeted gang members and associates engaged in organized criminal activity. Seven of those arrested during this operation are known gang members or associates from the "Surenos" street gang. Three additional suspects were apprehended on other criminal and federal immigration charges. Eight were arrested in Bozeman, and two in West Yellowstone. All were from Mexico.
Those in ICE custody are charged with administrative immigration violations and are awaiting deportation. In addition to immigration charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana has accepted prosecution for one of the men arrested for reentering the United States after being previously deported, which is a felony.
Information received by ICE-HSI and other law enforcement indicates that criminal gangs, such as the Surenos and others, are becoming increasingly involved in Montana with smuggling and distributing narcotics, laundering illicit drug proceeds, and other illegal activities.
"The Gallatin County Sheriff's Office is committed to reducing crime at a local level," said Gallatin County Sheriff Jim Cashell. "In this case, we assisted ICE with arresting illegal immigrants that have ties to street gangs and known criminal enterprises. Removing these individuals from the streets is an important step in maintaining the safety and quality of life that the citizens of Gallatin County expect."
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.