Seventeen defendants arrested in a law enforcement sweep targeting members of a San Diego-area criminal street gang are scheduled to make their initial federal court appearances today.
The defendants faces charges including racketeering and various drug and weapons counts.
In a news conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said the members of "a particularly volatile and violent" gang were rounded up by more than 500 law enforcement officers from numerous agencies.
Authorities said the operation began as a drug investigation by El Cajon police, but after connections were made to other people and alleged crimes, it snowballed to include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, FBI and San Diego Police Department.
The gang was active in El Cajon, Spring Valley and the San Diego neighborhoods of Logan Heights and East San Diego, according to Duffy. She said the sweep netted 45 suspects with another nine still at large, including alleged ringleader Randy Alton Graves, 50, of El Cajon.
Around 6 p.m. Thursday, Graves was found and arrested in Las Vegas by FBI agents, said FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth of the agency's San Diego field office.
Authorities said that during the sweep in which today's defendants were arrested, they found handguns, sawed-off shotguns, rifles and ammunition. Duffy said the serial numbers and other identifying information on the firearms were removed.
She said the officers who took part in the raids also discovered various types of drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars of counterfeit bills.
Besides the racketeering charges, the defendants face counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Several face life in prison, if convicted.
Some of the defendants were also involved in recent homicides, Duffy said. She said some of the murder victims were members or associates of the gang who were accused of cooperating with police, or who criticized other killings.
—City News Service