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Gang sweep uncovers South L.A. cellphone store selling crack cocaine

May 20, 2011 |  7:26 am

Photo: An unnamed suspect is handcuffed Thursday after a gang sweep conducted by a multi-agency task force that included the LAPD and the FBI. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times A South L.A. gang sweep this week revealed that gang members were operating a cellphone store that sold crack cocaine over the counter along with BlackBerries and other electronic devices, authorities said.

After a yearlong investigation, hundreds of heavily armored LAPD officers and FBI agents carrying federal indictments for 21 suspects raided locations Thursday, arresting suspected members of the Black P Stone Bloods gang.

Map shows location of cell phone store. Click for details about crime in the Arlington Heights neighborhood They arrested 17 federal suspects and 28 others on local charges related to drug dealing and illegal weapons. Four federal suspects remain at large, said LAPD Cmdr. Bob Green.

Federal agents and officers uncovered a cellphone store in 4000 block of West Washington Boulevard that sold crack cocaine and marijuana, according to investigators.

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich said his office issued abatement actions to owners to remove those responsible for gang and narcotics activity from two apartment buildings and the cellphone store.

"If the property owners don't come around, we have been known to come out with bulldozers," he said.

In all, 75 members of the gang have been arrested or face charges related to “Operation Red Dawn," officials said

It is the latest example of the increasingly federal approach to L.A.'s most troubling gangs, driven by an ability by federal agencies to get harsher sentences and provide financial support to cash-strapped local law enforcement.

"It's the top priority of [the] U.S. attorney to protect the public, and protecting the public in L.A. means going after gangs," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Bruce Riordan of the Los Angeles office.

Riordan said with mandatory minimum sentences of five years or more, no parole and far-flung federal prisons designed to separate gang members, federal prosecution can erode even the most unified gang.

"These are hardened criminals, not mere gang members or drug dealers," he added.

The arrests come five years after a similar raid netted 29 members of the gang's leadership.

"The fact we are back is indicative of good intelligence," said FBI Assistant Director Stephen Martinez.

The Black P Stone gang has deep roots in a gritty section of low-slung apartment houses between La Brea Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard, south of Coliseum Street.

Baldwin Village, for generations known as "the Jungle" for its rich assortment of tropical foliage, was the backdrop for portions of the crime film "Training Day."

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-- Richard Winton

Photo: An unnamed suspect is handcuffed Thursday after a gang sweep conducted by a multi-agency task force that included the LAPD and the FBI. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Map: The location of the cellphone store in the 4000 block of W. Washington Boulevard is marked in black. Credit: Los Angeles Time's Crime L.A.

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