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38th Street gang members arrested in federal indictment alleging murder, drug trafficking

February 1, 2011 |  3:30 pm

Several dozen members of Los Angeles' 38th Street gang were arrested Tuesday under a federal racketeering indictment alleging that they are responsible for numerous murders and large-scale drug trafficking, as well as impersonating federal agents and using a child as a shooter.

The early morning raids involving 800 law enforcement officers targeted one of L.A.'s oldest gangs, known for its deep ties with the Mexican Mafia prison gang. Investigators documented numerous plots, including one in which a gang member claims to have directed a 14-year-old girl to shoot a rival gang member as part of her initiation, according to the affidavit.

In another incident, gang members dressed as FBI agents and other law enforcement officers shot their way into a South Gate house, where they tied up and kidnapped a man, prosecutors said Tuesday. During a subsequent high-speed chase, the victim was allegedly executed with a bullet to his head, according to prosecutors.

During the pre-dawn raids Tuesday, LAPD officers and special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested 37 defendants on federal indictments; 20 more people were taken into custody on state weapons and narcotics charges.

Federal prosecutors already had 14 defendants named in the federal cases in custody. Seven fugitives remained at large.

"We targeted 87 members and associates of a violent street gang, which terrorized one of our communities," said Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Authorities seized about 7 kilograms of cocaine, a pound of methamphetamine, 23 firearms and about $250,000 in cash Tuesday when they searched multiple homes.

The 38th Street gang is the subject of a 130-page grand jury indictment alleging violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute. Some 53 defendants are charged with violating the federal law by acting on behalf of the gang and participating in murders, murder plots, attempted murders, narcotics trafficking, robberies, extortion and witness intimidation.

Most of the defendants in the racketeering case face up to life in federal prison if convicted. It is the latest in a series of federal racketeering cases against Los Angeles gangs. The indictment alleges the 38th Street gang engaged in the distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine and crack cocaine.

Agents and officers made a series of seizures during the investigation, including one detailed in the indictment in which authorities confiscated more than 2 kilograms of methamphetamine, nearly 4 kilograms of cocaine and more than $61,000 from one stash house.

The gang allegedly imported narcotics from Mexico and provided "street-level" distribution amounts to numerous gang members and associates, who sold the drugs in gang territory.

"The 38th Street gang has had a devastating impact throughout the communities of South Los Angeles," said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum.

To support their narcotics trafficking and to control their claimed territory, gang members kept an arsenal of firearms, including handguns, shotguns, assault rifles and machine guns, according to John A. Torres, Special Agent in Charge, ATF Los Angeles Field Division. Torres said his agents seized more than 80 firearms in the course of this gang investigation.

In addition to the federal RICO indictment, a grand jury returned five, single-defendant indictments that allege weapons and narcotics offenses.


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-- Richard Winton