FBI agents and local law enforcement officers have arrested 20 people who they say were connected to a street gang in the Watts area.
Those arrested Wednesday are suspected members of or associated with a gang named in federal grand jury indictments alleging the manufacture and sale of crack cocaine in and around the Nickerson Gardens public housing projects in South Los Angeles. Two were still being sought out.
Officials say the operation took months to coordinate but it deals a significant blow to the gang plaguing that area.
"I think it sends out a very strong message, especially bringing federal resources to basically a neighborhood crime problem, especially when you have -- in the federal system -- some mandatory minimums that they have to face. So I think it sends a very strong message to the community," said FBI special agent Matthew Moon.
The suspects are charged in nine federal indictments filed in L.A. that allege violations of federal narcotics and firearms laws, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The operation, dubbed "Loyalty Matters," involved some 350 federal agents, LAPD officers and L.A. County sheriff's deputies. The arrests were processed at the Buddhist Temple parking lot in Little Tokyo.
During the investigation, authorities allegedly seized 26 firearms -- including five "ghost guns," or firearms lacking serial numbers -- over two pounds of crack and 12 pounds of methamphetamine, according to prosecutors.
The primary indictment centers on Damion "Fatts" Baker, 43, and Tony "T-Bone" Carr, 49, both documented Watts-based gang members, according to prosecutors. The 15-count indictment also charges Baker's alleged network of narcotics suppliers, manufacturers and distributors.
From August 2019 to last May, Baker obtained powder cocaine from suppliers and, along with Carr, manufactured or "cooked" crack in Nickerson Gardens, then prepared and packaged the drug for other distributors and customers in the housing complex, according to the indictment. The conspirators allegedly collected proceeds from the crack cocaine sales after distributing the drugs to customers via hand-to-hand transactions.
City News Service contributed to this report.