LOS ANGELES - More than 1,300 federal and local law enforcement officers fanned out Thursday morning across the Los Angeles harbor area to arrest 80 alleged members and associates of the Rancho San Pedro gang, capping a nearly three-year investigation that linked the group to firearms and narcotics trafficking.
The enforcement action targeted some 230 Rancho San Pedro members and associates who are charged in federal and state court documents with a host of crimes, including violent acts as well as firearms and narcotics violations. Of the defendants located and taken into custody Thursday, 66 were arrested on state weapons and narcotics charges and 14 were arrested based upon federal indictments.
"The collaboration between federal and local authorities in Los Angeles is unparalleled, and today's operation in San Pedro is another great example of us joining together to take back our neighborhoods," said U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. "With scores of gang members, drug dealers and gun merchants being sent to jail today, we have delivered a staggering blow to the Rancho San Pedro gang. The Justice Department is committed to working with our state and local partners to dismantle criminal street gangs so our communities are safer for law-abiding residents."
The charges stem from a sweeping investigation involving more than a dozen federal, state and local agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office.
"This operation has dealt a major blow to one of the largest, most dangerous and longest-standing street gangs in the San Pedro area," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles. "Today, we are taking back our streets and making it clear that the scourge of fear and crime fostered by this gang is coming to an end."
"The San Pedro community is safer because of ATF's determined efforts to target and dismantle this criminal gang that used firearms and violent acts to further their illegal gains and intimidate the neighborhood, said John A. Torres, special agent in charge, ATF Los Angeles Field Division. "The firearms purchased include short-barreled shotguns, machine guns and assault-style weapons, many of which are suspected to be linked to Rancho San Pedro gang activities."
"I am committed to working closely with our federal partners to fight a gang that has had a stranglehold on one of our LA communities for far too long," said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. "LAPD detectives, Harbor Area and South Bureau officers and our ATF partners worked long and hard to put together a case that allowed us to arrest those responsible for committing illegal activities on behalf of the Rancho San Pedro Gang."
A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has issued 12 indictments naming 26 defendants on charges ranging from the distribution of methamphetamine and illegal weapon sales to immigration offenses. One of the indictment names three defendants who were allegedly involved in a series of narcotics transactions, including one sale involving more than one pound of methamphetamine. The lead defendant in that case is also accused of brokering the sale of 22 firearms, including assault rifles. About half of the defendants named in the federal indictments face potential life sentences.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office is prosecuting approximately 145 defendants on state charges, including illegal weapons possession and selling drugs, including methamphetamine and heroin.
During the course of the investigation, informants and undercover officers purchased 90 firearms along with significant quantities of cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana. During Thursday's takedown, officers seized an additional 14 firearms, including a silencer.
The Los Angeles City Attorney's Office has filed a gang injunction against the Rancho San Pedro gang that seeks to limit gang members' ability to associate with one another within a proposed safety zone that encompasses much of San Pedro. Additionally, the City Attorney has filed nuisance abatement actions against five commercial and residential locations, including a pizza parlor, all of which are associated with gang and narcotics activity. This is the first time a gang injunction and nuisance abatement lawsuits have been filed simultaneously in conjunction with the takedown of a major Southern California street gang.
"Gangs continue to be a dangerous scourge to our community and residents," said Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen A. Trutanich. "The joint task force efforts by the prosecutors in the City Attorney's Office along with our law enforcement partners at the state, local and federal level will help put a stop to their crimes and threats to the law-abiding residents of this City and will restore a greater quality of life in our neighborhoods."
The Rancho San Pedro gang originated back in the 1970s. Its membership includes 600 documented members, as well as more than 400 associates.