28 South LA gang members arrested in Boyle Heights as part of citywide bust

The U.S. Attorney's Office said they were arrested federal racketeering, narcotics and firearms charges.

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Thursday, August 18, 2022
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Dozens of members of a South Los Angeles-based street gang were arrested Thursday morning in Boyle Heights on federal racketeering, narcotics and firearms charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced.

BOYLE HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Dozens of members of a South Los Angeles-based street gang were arrested Thursday morning in Boyle Heights on federal racketeering, narcotics and firearms charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced.

Authorities said 28 members and associates of the Eastside Playboys gang were arrested as part of a citywide bust led by the FBI, the Los Angeles Police Department and other agencies.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the arrests stem from six grand jury indictments, one of which alleges a racketeering scheme and includes allegations of narcotics and weapons trafficking, as well as the extortion of local businesses. Three of the defendants were already in custody, and law enforcement are still searching for 10 more, they said.

During the investigation, authorities seized 47 firearms, 199 kilograms of methamphetamine, 13.6 kilograms of fentanyl, 27 kilograms of cocaine, 7.6 kilograms of heroin, 283 kilograms of marijuana, and $140,000 in cash, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) indictment also claims members operated two unlicensed marijuana dispensaries.

"This case is the culmination of years of work by our agents and prosecutors, alongside our local law enforcement partners, to remove violent gang members from our streets and dismantle the criminal organizations that fuel violent crime," said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a press release issued Thursday. "The Justice Department has no tolerance for violent gangs that sow fear and terror in our communities, and we will continue to use every tool we have to stop them and bring them to justice."

Authorities said some of the members participated in large-scale drug trafficking, including sending drugs through the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and UPS.

"Some defendants also allegedly distributed cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl powder and counterfeit fentanyl-laced pills in Los Angeles and Orange counties," said the U.S. Attorney's Office's press release.

The lead defendant in the RICO indictment was identified as 47-year-old Eliseo Luna of South Los Angeles, who authorities said acted as an overall "shot caller" for the gang.

Luna - who used several different names including "Chilo," "Crazy," "Toca" and "El Abogado" - allegedly oversaw the Playboys' drug trafficking activities, gave orders, and authorized the assault and murder of members "in bad standing with Playboys," authorities said.

The RICO indictment also claims that four of the defendants were involved in a home invasion robbery of a marijuana dealer in Woodland Hills in March 2020.

"In a subsequent conversation with Luna outlined in the indictment, one of the alleged robbers described the home invasion robbery, including the restraint of the victim, the theft of up to $50,000 in cash and approximately 10 pounds of marijuana, and a gun fight between the robbers and the victim, which resulted in one of the robbers being shot in the stomach by the robbery victim," said the U.S. Attorney's Office's press release.

A second indictment unsealed Thursday names 17 people who were all charged with participating in a narcotics-trafficking conspiracy.

The indictment lists 31-year-old Elvis Arreguin of San Pedro, who allegedly ran a fentanyl and meth lab in Long Beach.

"On July 7, 2021, defendant Arreguin and a co-conspirator drove together to a UPS store in Long Beach, California, where the co-conspirator dropped off a package containing approximately 10.007 kilograms of fentanyl that were packaged in one-kilogram bundles and covered in mustard," the indictment alleges.

Those who were arrested are expected to be arraigned later in the day.

RICO charges each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison while the drug and firearms charges carry a range of potential sentences, including a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five years in prison.