Federal and local law enforcements agents arrested eight people early Tuesday as part of a three-year investigation into the Mexican Mafia, La Familia drug cartel and the notorious street gang, Florencia 13.
The gangs are normally rivals, but authorities say they forged a union in order to flood California, and beyond, with drugs to reap significant profit.
“As the gangs change their tactics … they seem to be working together,” said Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell, whose department is part of the task force that helped in the investigation. “It’s important for law enforcement to also work together like we did so well in this operation.”
A total of 44 Mexican Mafia, La Familia drug cartel and Florencia 13 members, shot callers and associates were named in two separate indictments filed against the alleged criminal organizations. Eight were arrested Tuesday; the others have already been arrested or are outstanding.
“This is the largest single crackdown of the Mexican Mafia since the ’90s,” said Andre Birotte, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.
Through the merger, the Mexican Mafia, a gang that reportedly controls the prisons and drugs sales on Southern California streets, would allow the La Familia cartel to have free reign to sell drugs in the region and would provide incarcerated cartel members with protection in prison in exchange for money and drugs, authorities said.
“This is the first time that I’m aware of that these organizations have worked together like this,” said Steven J. Bogdalek, special agent in charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
During the three-year investigation, agents seized numerous firearms and a large amount of drugs, including a total of 600 pounds of methamphetamine valued around $19 million. Police say two homicide cases were also solved as a result, though they did not provide details.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said he felt the operations and resulting arrests have dealt a major blow to the criminal enterprise’s plan to grow it’s illegal empire.
The arrest warrants served Tuesday spanned as far north as Antioch, near San Francisco, to San Diego. A total of eight men and women were arrested in connection to the seven-count indictment.
An earlier indictment, unsealed Tuesday, named 31 Mexican Mafia and Florencia 13 members, alleging the defendants had violated the federal racketeering
statute as well as various drugs, firearms and fraud offenses. The indictment outlined a 2007 crackdown that resulted in more than 100 alleged gang members and associates being charged with federal offenses and the conviction and sentencing of five people to federal prison for life terms without the possibility of parole, officials said.
“When you make an arrest and these individuals are sentenced, some potentially for at least 10 years, it makes a difference in that community,” said Bogdalek. “It matters to the person who lives next to the person we arrest.”
In 2010, investigators learned of the partnership between the groups and formed a law enforcement alliance among 14 agencies, including police departments in Long Beach, Pasadena, Bakersfield, Glendale and Huntington Park, as well as the ATF, the Drug Enforcement Agency, sheriff’s department, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Secret Service.
“As we continued to investigate, we learned this was a much further-reaching case,” Bogdalek said.
La Familia and its successor, Los Caballeros Templarios, are a major drug cartel based in Michoacan, Mexico. Members of the cartel have traditionally use horrific violence to silence enemies as well as citizens looking to clean up their state.
Some of the drugs caught are on display during the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm and Explosives (ATF) press conference to announce the completion of two investigations that targeted the Mexican Mafia prison gang. Reyes when 150 men, women and children protested against the Templarios’ hold on the small town, according to local reports. According to Excelsior Especiales, a Mexican news website, the attack took place in front of the town’s government building. Florencia 13 is a Latino gang named after the Florence area of South Los Angeles, but investigators say their criminal reach could be statewide if not farther. “The Mexican Mafia is statewide,” said Bogdalek,” so it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that there are similar operations outside of this investigation’s area. “Authorities vow to continue their investigation into the criminal organizations and the new tactic they reportedly employed to financially further the gangs.”As gangs evolve and mutate, we in law enforcement have to evolve as well,” Birotte said.
Contact Beatriz Valenzuela at 562-499-1466.
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