35 indicted in crackdown of San Bernardino street gang tied to Mexican Mafia

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Federal and local authorities charged 35 alleged San Bernardino-based gang members and associates of drug trafficking and other offenses Thursday.

Authorities say the suspects belonging to the Westside Verdugo gang, a group tied to the Mexican Mafia, smuggled drugs into San Bernardino communities and jails. They allegedly got themselves arrested on purpose to smuggle the drugs inside county and city jails via body cavity.

The investigation began after gang intelligence got wind of a gang member purposely getting arrested in order to smuggle the drugs.

During a body cavity search of one of the members, deputies found methamphetamine, heroin, five syringes and 20 packets of opioids.

The roundup, dubbed Operation Westside Guillotine, was aimed at taking down the gang and disrupting their activity.

Twenty-four alleged members and associates were arrested in a raid conducted by several law enforcement agencies across San Bernardino.

Ten of the indicted were already in state custody. Authorities are still seeking one suspect, identified as Angel Martinez.

Eight of the federal indictments charge the 35 defendants of dozens of counts of conspiracy, narcotics violations, firearms violations, identity theft and money laundering.

The arrests were part of a nearly two year investigation into the suspected criminal activity, which uncovered a methamphetamine and heroin distribution network, authorities said.

Authorities say during the course of the investigation, more than 30 pounds of methamphetamine were seized.

According to the federal indictment, the street gang is responsible for trafficking and distribution of drugs throughout Southern California on behalf of the Mexican Mafia.

The 35 indicted will face a possible life sentence under the federal charge of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

The family of one of those swept up said they got the wrong man.

"Everything is a misunderstanding and I know it," Carolina Avila, whose boyfriend was among those arrested, said. "None of this is true."
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