Task Force Investigation Results in Whittier-Area Gang Members Being Named in Federal Narcotics Trafficking Indictment

October 18 2011

LOS ANGELES – An 18-month task force investigation this morning resulted in the arrest of 23 individuals – mostly gang members – who are named in a federal drug trafficking indictment that alleges they participated in a methamphetamine distribution organization that operated in Whittier and surrounding communities.

The main indictment names 31 defendants, all of whom are charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Two other people are named in single-defendant indictments, which means that Operation Grand Slam has resulted in charges against 33 defendants. In addition to the 23 defendants arrested this morning, six defendants were already in custody. Authorities are continuing to search for four fugitives.

Operation Grand Slam was an 18-month investigation into a methamphetamine distribution network that was responsible for street-level sales of the drug in the areas of Whittier, Santa Fe Springs and Pico Rivera. The drug ring allegedly was responsible for distributing nearly pure methamphetamine in transactions as large as one-half pound. Most of the defendants are affiliated with area street gangs, and many of the defendants are members and associates of the Los Nietos street gang.

Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum said: “Criminal street gangs impact our communities through drug related violence as they attempt to expand their operations. Today’s arrests demonstrate the results that can be achieved as law enforcement joins together to reduce the threat of gangs in our neighborhoods.”

The main indictment alleges 13 counts, and all 31 defendants named in that indictment are charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Certain defendants are additionally charged with possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and felon in possession of a firearm. If convicted, all 31 defendants face potential life sentences, and all of them face mandatory minimum sentences of at least five years in federal prison.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

Those taken into custody this morning will be arraigned on the indictment this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

Operation Grand Slam is the result of an investigation that was conducted by the Los Angeles HIDTA Task Force, a federally funded group made up of federal and local law enforcement agencies. The investigation was conducted by HIDTA Group

51, which is comprised of agents and officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Glendale Police Department and the Los Angeles Port Police. The Whittier Police Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and IRS – Criminal Investigation worked in conjunction with the Task Force during this investigation.

The High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program is designed to enhance and coordinate efforts among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Today’s takedown is the latest example of federal and local authorities joining forces to fight the most entrenched street gangs.

In addition to the agencies that participated in the investigation, the following law enforcement agencies participated in this morning’s takedown: the Hawthorne Police Department; the Irwindale Police Department; the Glendora Police Department; the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department; the Downey Police Department; the Montebello Police Department; the Baldwin Park Police Department; LA IMPACT; the Long Beach Police Department; the Inglewood Police Department; the Monrovia Police Department; the Azusa Police Department; the West Covina Police Department; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; the Los Angeles County Probation Department; the Los Angeles County Department of Children Services; the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, Division of Adult Parole Operations; and the United States Marshals Service.

CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Justin Rhoades

Violent and Organized Crime Section

(213) 894-3380

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