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18 arrested in federal crackdown on gang that operated near USC

December 6, 2012 | 12:17 pm

Federal authorities on Thursday announced a sweeping racketeering indictment against a Mexican Mafia-controlled gang that operated in an L.A. neighborhood just north of USC and was allegedly involved in at least one slaying, drug sales, extortion and robberies.

Eighteen members of the Harpys gang, also known as the Harpys-Dead End gang, were arrested Thursday morning on charges in three federal indictments resulting from “Operation Roman Empire.”

Those arrested include Vianna Roman, 37, daughter of a Mexican Mafia member, Danny Roman, who allegedly controlled the gang while serving a life sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison.

A total of 29 defendants were named in the racketeering indictment, eight of whom were already in state custody. Among them is Miguel Delgado, 18, accused of committing armed robbery against three USC students.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Vianna Roman and her husband, Aaron Soto, 40, traveled to and from Pelican Bay passing along orders from Danny Roman and collecting taxes to be funneled to him through profits the gang made through dealing in methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin and through extorting businesses, including swap-meet vendors, via threats of violence.

Members of the gang are suspected in the slaying of one gang member who owed a debt, as well as plotting to kill a witness slated to testify against a gang member in a state court case, according to the indictment.

The gang has previously been targeted by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office in injunctions alleging the gang’s members were engaged in shakedowns, robberies, vandalism and murder. A judge issued a court order in 1998 that barred 30 of the gang’s members from associating with one another in the area.

At the time, one business owner said the Harpys asked for $150 to $180 a month for protection from the gang.

The gang controlled an area southwest of downtown that spanned from Normandie Avenue to Figueroa Street and Washington Boulevard to Jefferson Boulevard. Over the course of the operation, authorities seized 8½ pounds of methamphetamine, approximately one-half pound of heroin, approximately one pound of cocaine, 23 pounds of marijuana and 22 guns, according to a press release from the U.S. attorney's office.

If convicted of the racketeering charges, all but one of the defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison, prosecutors said.

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-- Victoria Kim

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