Sweep targets members of 18th Street gang

Daily News Wire Services
Updated: 06/25/2009 11:17:54 AM PDT

Authorities today arrested 27 members and blankociates of a Southland street gang on suspicion of various crimes, including firearms, drug and immigration violations, a federal official said.

Search and arrest warrants were served at 19 locations, and probation searches were conducted at two other locations for 18th Street Gang members, said Michael Hoffman of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Personnel from the ATF, Los Angeles Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration were involved in the overnight raids, Hoffman said.

The arrests were the result of an 18-month investigation into the gang’s illegal activities, Hoffman said.

Authorities seized 15 firearms, more than $42,000 in currency, four vehicles, about 200 pounds of illegal fireworks, and a small amount of drugs, Hoffman said. Three children were taken into protective custody.

A federal grand jury issued six indictments last week against nine members and blankociates of the gang for various alleged crimes, including selling firearms without a license; being a felon in possession of a firearm; distribution and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine; and being an illegal immigrant in possession of a firearm.

Several of those arrested today are higher-level members of the gang, Hoffman said.

“ATF will continue to work side by side with our federal and local partners to aggressively pursue gang members who use firearms to perpetrate violent crime,” said John A. Torres, special agent in charge of ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division.

The gang is one of the oldest, largest and most heavily entrenched in the Southland, and its members engage in numerous crimes, Hoffman said.

“The gang and its blankociates often perpetrate this criminal activity at illegal after-hour clubs known as `casitas,”‘ Hoffman said in a statement.

“These casitas have been the source of murders, drug trafficking, gambling, prostitution, and violent blankaults,” Hoffman said. “The casitas are often located in residential neighborhoods where the gang members use intimidation to keep area residents from notifying authorities.”

LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese lauded the multi-agency enforcement effort.

“The illegal casitas operating in the 77th Street Area (in South Los Angeles) have been the site of three separate homicides,” Albanese said in a statement.

“Today’s enforcement effort will serve to shut down these operations, incarcerate those responsible and bring a greater level of peace to the community,” Albanese said.

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