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63 arrested in largest gang bust in U.S.

May 21, 2009 11:05:07 AM PDT
Officials say 63 suspected gang members have been arrested in the Los Angeles area in the largest gang bust in U.S. history.Federal and local agents say they've indicted nearly 150 members of a predominantly Latino gang operating in the Hawaiian Gardens area. Raids are under way as officials search for the suspects.

Agents say the members of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens street gang are accused of targeting blacks in a series of shootings and other crimes.

The five federal indictments unsealed detail attempted murder, kidnapping, firearms, narcotics and other charges related to attacks by the gang. Authorities say the motive in the attacks was hate.

Agents seized dozens of weapons, including handguns and rifles, during the morning raids.

Police began tracking the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang in 2005 after the murder of L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Jerry Ortiz. A member of the gang was arrested and later convicted and sentenced to death for the killing.

"Following the murder of Deputy Ortiz, the Sheriff's Department sought federal and local assistance to help destroy the Hawaiian Gardens gang," said U.S. attorney Tom O'Brien. "Working together, federal, local and state law enforcement, we investigated the gang and its affiliates. We now have the largest gang takedown in United States history. Today we have unsealed five federal indictments that name a total of 147 defendants. This morning 63 of those named in the indictment were arrested."

The gang members face 20 years to life in prison if convicted.

The multi-agency operation included personnel from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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