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Transnational Gangs

18 arrested in Minnesota during ICE-led anti-gang operation

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - Assisted by local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested 18 men during a weeklong operation targeting gang members and their associates in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Richfield Police Department assisted ICE with this operation, along with the Bloomington and Minneapolis police departments.

This is the latest local effort in ICE-HSI's ongoing Operation Community Shield initiative in Minnesota, which targets, investigates and arrests gang members and gang associates operating within the state.

This multi-agency operation, which ended July 2, targeted gang members and associates engaged in organized criminal activity. Fifteen of those arrested during this operation are known gang members or associates from the "Vatos Locos" street gang. The other three are known gang members or associates from the "Sureño-13" street gang.

Those found to be illegally present in the country were charged with administrative immigration violations and are awaiting deportation. One of the men was arrested on state charges for attempted murder and is being held at the Hennepin County Jail. During the operation, ICE and its law enforcement partners also seized a .25-caliber handgun and ammunition, and illegal narcotics.

Information received by ICE-HSI and other law enforcement indicates that criminal gangs, such as Vatos Locos and others, are becoming increasingly involved in Minnesota with smuggling and distributing narcotics, laundering illicit drug proceeds and other illegal activities.

"Street gangs account for a significant amount of crime nationally and locally," said William Lowder, acting special agent in charge of HSI in Bloomington. "Our ICE-HSI agents work closely with our local law enforcement partners to identify, locate, investigate and arrest these gang members in order to disrupt and dismantle their operations, which positively impacts public safety within our communities."

"The Richfield Police Department is committed to maintaining a safe community," said Richfield Police Chief Barry Fritz. "Gang members pose a significant threat to that commitment, so we are thankful for our ability to partner with ICE in initiatives such as Operation Community Shield. The recent arrests of transnational gang members will have a significant impact on their illegal activity in Richfield and the metropolitan area."

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.

For more information, visit www.ice.gov.