Lawfuel – The Law Newswire – LOS ANGELES – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested six foreign nationals with ties to violent street gangs in the Southland during the past week, the latest actions in an ongoing ICE operation that has resulted in the arrest of 124 gang members in the last three months.
Among those arrested by ICE agents during the past week was Pedro Barboza-Serrano, 40, a Mexican national and reputed member of the Eastside Longos whose criminal record includes prior convictions on drug charges, robbery, burglary, and spousal battery.
Barboza-Serrano is one of 56 suspected gang members indicted on federal criminal charges as part of the operation. The criminal charges include drug and firearms offenses, and re-entry after deportation, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Barboza-Serrano, who pleaded not guilty to re-entry charges Monday, is scheduled to go on trial late next month.
Of the foreign nationals indicted in connection with the ICE investigation, 36 are in custody at this time. The other 20 remain at large and are actively being sought. At a news conference this morning, representatives from the United States Attorney’s Office and ICE unveiled wanted posters featuring two of those fugitives. They include Gerber Antonio Oliva-Diaz, 39, a reputed member of the Florencia 13 gang who has prior arrests for murder, kidnapping to commit robbery, grand theft auto, and burglary. In addition, Oliva-Diaz has also been charged 17 times for possession of a controlled substance.
In addition to the 36 individuals arrested on criminal charges, ICE agents arrested 88 suspected gang members on administrative immigration violations. All told, ICE agents have taken 124 suspected gang members off the streets in the greater Los Angeles area over the last 90 days.
The indictments and arrests announced today are part of Operation Community Shield, an ongoing nationwide initiative in which ICE is partnering with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to address the public safety threat posed by transnational gangs. A crucial component of that strategy is using criminal prosecutions to disrupt gang activity and dismantle the organizations.
“As part of our long-standing battle against streets gangs and organized crime, we have utilized many tactics, including the filing of immigration charges,” said Acting United States Attorney George S. Cardona. “This concerted law enforcement effort has led to dozens of criminal aliens being removed from the communities that have suffered so much as a result of gang activity.”
The 56 foreign nationals indicted as part of this latest ICE investigation are linked to more than two dozen different street gangs – among them, MS-13, White Fence, the 18th Street Gang, the Black P-Stones, the Eastside Longos, the Villa Boys, and Los Primos. During the investigation, ICE agents executed arrest warrants in communities throughout the Southland, including Los Angeles, San Fernando, Pasadena, Signal Hill, Long Beach, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Palmdale, and Ventura.
“The foreign national gang members we’re targeting are career criminals – brutal thugs who, in many cases, prey on members of their own immigrant community,” said Julie L. Myers, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE. “We want to send a clear message to these gang members: we will deal strongly with those who ignore our immigration laws and place our neighborhoods at risk.”
The majority of the gang members indicted in this investigation are Mexican, but the group also includes foreign nationals from Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize.
In addition to the arrests, the probe has resulted in the seizure of numerous weapons, a pound of methamphetamine, and gang paraphernalia.
Since Operation Community Shield was launched in February 2005, ICE agents nationwide have arrested more than 4,900 gang members and associates who belong to more than 500 different street gangs. Those taken into custody include approximately 1,300 individuals arrested on criminal charges and more than 3,600 subjects arrested on administrative immigration violations. Locally, ICE agents in Los Angeles have made more than 500 arrests since the initiative’s inception.
ICE will continue to use its broad immigration authorities, both criminal and administrative, against gang members, as well as its customs authorities to target gang-related narcotics smuggling and money laundering activities. Operation Community Shield also involves strong cooperation with existing federal, state, and local anti-gang efforts.
To underscore the cooperative nature of the federal government’s fight against gangs, members of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office participated in today’s press conference to discuss a recent referral that led to the filing of federal immigration charges against a gang member.
“Our recent actions send a simple message: if you are a member of a criminal street gang, you are convicted of violating a gang injunction and you are in this country illegally, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law by both local and federal prosecutors and then will face deportation,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. “I would like to especially thank our partners with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the special agents with ICE for their strong and continuing support of our local anti-gang efforts.”
# ICE #
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was established in March 2003 as the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE is comprised of five integrated divisions that form a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities.