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City attorney getting $5 million from downtown street gang [UPDATED]

January 13, 2009 | 11:02 am

In what officials described as a first, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo announced this morning that his office secured a $5-million civil judgment against the 5th and Hill gang, which for decades dominated the heroin trade in downtown L.A.

The judgment marks the first secured after a 2007 state law was passed allowing county and city prosecutors to go after a gang’s ill-gotten assets.

Once the money is collected from 11 of the gang’s members named in the lawsuit, a general fund will be set up for the downtown community, and the money will be used to undo the damage from the gang’s operations, said a spokesman for the city attorney.

"This is a whole new front that we're waging against these gang members," Delgadillo said. "It's new to them, it's new to us, but it feels like we're winning."

The 5th and Hill gang was the target of a major crackdown by the LAPD in 2007. According to detectives, the leaders lived in the suburbs and other parts of L.A., where they produced thousands of heroin balloons at their homes and then had middlemen deliver them downtown. There, day laborers, homeless people and even children as young as 12 allegedly helped peddle the heroin.

At the time, the LAPD said it had dismantled what was the main source of heroin in Los Angeles. It was able to go after the gang kingpins, detectives said, because of video surveillance tapes that tracked the movement of drugs in and out of downtown.

Next up, officials said, is the 18th Street gang.

The city attorney filed a lawsuit last month seeking damages from nine imprisoned leaders of the gang, who allegedly profited from “street taxes” from residents while in prison.

-- Victoria Kim

Photo: A mural defaced by a 5th and Hill gang tag in 2007. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Updated at 12:53 p.m.