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Suspected gun traffickers taken into custody

July 31, 2009 |  6:38 pm

Four men were taken into federal custody this morning after a raid on a gun-trafficking ring that may be tied to a Mexican drug cartel, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

During the investigation, undercover agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) made a series of gun purchases that began in October 2008, according to a criminal complaint. Several handguns and machine guns, drugs and documents listing the names of customers, as well as distribution locations, were recovered during searches at each of the men’s homes.

Officers and deputies from the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department also assisted in the case.

The men taken into custody included Edgardo Prado Casteneda, 26, of Azusa, who is known as “Primo,” and claims to be an operative of La Familia drug cartel. Casteneda was charged with selling firearms without a license and distributing methamphetamine. Also taken into custody was Vicente “Chewy” Garcia Jr., 38, of Azusa; Steven Scott Blanks, 47, of Norco; and Victor “Fingers” Velasquez, 34, of El Monte. Garcia is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm; Blanks is charged with possession of a machine gun; and Velasquez is charged with distribution of meth. 

“Today’s arrests and enforcement actions conclude a successful investigation by LAPD and ATF into a firearms trafficking ring with possible ties to Mexican drug cartels,” said Christopher Shaefer, acting special agent in charge of ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division. “Many firearms were taken off the street that may have otherwise ended up in the hands of those determined to further their criminal activity.”

If convicted, the men would face a maximum of at least 10 years in prison.

--Ruben Vives