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OC raid deals 'staggering blow' to Mexican Mafia

July 13, 2011 12:01:04 AM PDT
Authorities dealt a "staggering blow" to the Mexican Mafia after dozens of suspects were arrested in a massive gang takedown on Wednesday.

Operation Black Flag led to the arrests of dozens of suspected Mexican Mafia gang members.

FBI SWAT team members used flash grenades to surprise the suspects inside a home in Orange at about 6 a.m.

Other arrests were made at the same time in other parts of Santa Ana, Riverside and in L.A. County. More than 30 were arrested in total.

ABC7's exclusive video showed heavily armed teams taking the men into custody.

In Orange, Alberto Vargas, 47, nicknamed "The Puppet," was arrested. In Santa Ana, Donald "Sluggo" Aguilar, 51, was arrested. Authorities consider both men high up in the Mexican Mafia organization.

A quantity of heroin, 45 guns and thousands of dollars in cash were seized during Wednesday's raids.

The raid was a culmination of a 30-month investigation of area Mexican Mafia-affiliated gangs and drug dealers. Authorities said they have had alleged gang members under surveillance in prison and outside, watching their actions.

The Mexican Mafia is considered to be the oldest and most powerful prison gang in the U.S.

"The Mexican Mafia, both in prison and on the street, are basically calling the shots when it comes to narcotic sales, extortion. If you're doing business in their neighborhoods, they expect payment," said Santa Ana Police Corporal Anthony Bertagna.

Peter Ojeda "The Big Homie" already in prison, faces additional charges, including racketeering, engaging in conspiracies to commit murder, extortion and drug trafficking. "His influence, unfortunately, over the Orange County Hispanic gangs was quite significant, giving him the nickname of 'The Big Homie,'" said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr.

Bertagna said they are trying to take out the leadership in an effort to end the criminal enterprise.

"Basically, it's like to cut the head off the snake," he said.

Officials say nearly 60 people are facing charges, including racketeering, narcotic sales and weapons sales.

Federal, state and local authorities made the announcement together during a news conference in Santa Ana.

The investigation began in 2008.

"Deputies intercepted messages intended for other gang members. Through the use of investigative techniques, sheriff's personnel collected approximately 2300 pieces of evidence," said Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

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