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35 arrested in major drug, gang crackdown

October 22, 2010 12:29:52 AM PDT
Hundreds of police and federal agents launched a major crackdown on drugs and gangs across Southern California on Thursday morning.Authorities said dozens of raids were conducted throughout the night in Los Angeles and Riverside counties. It was an early morning wake-up call that suspected gang members won't forget.

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ATF and the LAPD fanned out to make the arrests.

"The network is all the way from supply in Mexico ... right to the street gang members who are distributing drugs on the street, both crack cocaine and methamphetamine," said Claude Arnold of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Thirty-five people were arrested, most without incident. The arrests came after a federal grand jury returned six indictments that name a total of 61 defendants - 58 of whom face mandatory minimum sentences of either 10 or 20 years in federal prison.

In addition to the arrests, federal and local investigators found a meth lab, more than 1.5 pounds of meth, five pounds of marijuana, nearly 100 marijuana plants, more than $20,000 in cash, and four firearms, including a shotgun.

"I don't care if it's one gun or 17 guns or 100 guns, if we get that one gun off the street it's going to save your child, your family member -- we've done our jobs," said John Torres, special agent in charge of the Los Angeles ATF field division.

Authorities believe the raids will cripple the gangs ability to distribute drugs in the region. While there are still suspects outstanding, authorities are not ruling out more early morning raids.

"This is an important step in reclaiming this community from the criminals. It's also a great sign to everyone in this area that the communication between law enforcement [and] the different agencies with different jurisdictions has never been stronger," said Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich.

Officials said Thursday's operation can be traced back to an investigation they conducted several years ago in the South Bay involving local cocaine dealers.

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