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Alleged hit man for Mexican cartel among nine arrested in Bell Gardens gang sweep

September 25, 2009 | 12:44 pm

Nine members and associates of a Bell Gardens street gang, including a suspected hit man for a Mexican drug cartel, have been arrested on drug trafficking and weapons charges, federal officials said today.

The suspects -- six U.S. citizens and three illegal Mexican immigrants -- were arrested Thursday as agents served search warrants in Bell Gardens and Los Angeles, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said. 

Several assault weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle, a Tec-9 submachine gun, a MAC-11 submachine gun and a sawed-off shotgun along with thousands of rounds of ammunition were also recovered.

"This is a relatively small and newer gang that has been operating with impunity for the last several years," said Kevin Kozak, deputy special agent in charge of ICE's local office of investigations. "They have access to significant weapons ... and claims they can have access to military grade weapons through a 'friend' in the military."

One of the suspects, Henry “Silent” Valenzuela, 27, of Bell Gardens, told an ICE undercover investigator that he is a hit man for a Tijuana-based drug cartel, officials said.

The arrests culminated a nine-month investigation of the Barrio Evil 13 street gang by ICE, which was assisted in the arrests by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Bell, Huntington Park, Vernon and Long Beach police departments. 

"This is an ongoing investigation," Kozak said. "We are concerned about the source origin of these weapons and the distribution network. The size of their stockpile implies that they were supplying other gangs."

-- Ching-Ching Ni

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