A group of defendants arrested last week in a roundup of gang members is scheduled for arraignment at the San Diego County Courthouse today.
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.
Some of the defendants will be prosecuted in federal court while others face charges in state court. The 19 set for arraignment today face counts of illegal possession and sales of firearms, robbery and drug sales, according to the District Attorney's Office.
On Friday, 17 men and two women made their first appearances in federal court and were ordered to remain behind bars pending a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday. The crimes they face include racketeering and various drug and weapons offenses, and they could face life in prison if convicted.
Another man, who prosecutors label as "the lead defendant" in the case, went before a judge in Las Vegas and was also ordered to stay in custody. Randy Alton Graves, 50, of El Cajon, will be returned to San Diego for prosecution, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
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, the FBI and the 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, who said the sweep netted 45 suspects.
Authorities said that during the sweep, they found handguns, sawed-off shotguns, rifles and ammunition. Duffy said the serial numbers and other identifying information on the firearms had been 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.
Some of the defendants were also allegedly 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.
It was not immediately clear how many of the defendants could be liable for the alleged murders.
—City News Service