Immigration sweep targets Valley gangs

By Sam Quinones
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 6, 2007

In an ongoing crackdown, 28 foreign nationals suspected of having ties to street gangs in the San Fernando Valley were arrested by federal immigration agents Friday during early morning sweeps throughout Los Angeles County.

More than 200 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents fanned out across the Valley, Palmdale and other areas of the county, raiding residences and arresting members of 15 street gangs, officials said.

Among them was Jorge Torres, 31, a reputed member of the Project Boys in Pacoima whose criminal record includes convictions for drug charges as well as battery on a police officer, officials said. Torres, who has been deported five times, has been indicted by the U.S. attorney’s office for reentering the United States.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

“The people targeted in these operations are career criminals who often prey on members of the immigrant community,” said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of ICE in Los Angeles. “We want to send a clear message to foreign national gang members that ICE intends to deal strongly with those who ignore our immigration laws and place our neighborhoods at risk.”

Friday’s sweep was part of the agency’s ongoing crackdown on illegal immigrants with suspected gang affiliations in the Valley.

Of the 28 people arrested Friday, 21 were undocumented and seven had legal-residency status, which is now being revoked, Schoch said.

Those arrested were believed to be linked to gangs including the Canoga Park Alabama, San Fer, Barrio Van Nuys, Vineland Boys, Blythe Street and Project Boys.

Schoch said a squad of agents has been working the Valley since last year.

Los Angeles police have identified a hike in gang crime in the Valley and list several area gangs as some of the city’s most violent.

The San Fernando Valley “is the size of Philadelphia,” Schoch said. “From a workload standpoint, we needed to be up there.”

In September, ICE agents arrested nine reputed gang members suspected of being in the country illegally.

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