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Gang Members Illegally in U.S. Targeted

Eastern Group Publications, News Report, Staff Posted: Jun 08, 2007

LOS ANGELES -- Three dozen suspected illegal immigrant gang members with criminal histories were arrested on indictments that carry federal prison terms, and 20 others are being sought on federal charges, prosecutors and immigration officials said Wednesday.

As part of the crackdown, nearly 90 other gang members have been arrested on immigration violations, according to authorities.

As part of our long-standing battle against street gangs and organized crime, we have utilized many tactics, including the filing of immigration charges, said Acting United States Attorney George S. Cardona.

The individuals targeted are not poster children for the American dream, the head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements Los Angeles investigations office, Robert Schoch, told reporters.

He said those arrested belong to gangs that include some of the oldest and most violent organizations in the Southland.

Most of those charged are Mexican citizens, but the group also includes citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize, according to the government.

The criminal charges include drug and firearms offenses, and well as the charge of re-entering the United States after having been deported a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison.
The law enforcement action, part of an ongoing national initiative aimed at fighting gangs that cross borders, was meant to target individuals who commit crimes as part of gangs and then return, sometimes repeatedly, to the United States after being deported, authorities said.

A half-dozen individuals were taken into custody by ICE agents during the past week, including Pedro Barboza-Serrano, a 40-year-old Mexican national and reputed Eastside Longos member who authorities say has prior drug, robbery, burglary and spousal battery convictions. Barboza-Serrano pleaded not guilty on Monday.

During one of the arrests, another defendant, Benjamin Angel Silva, kicked his way out of the back of an immigration van and ran down a street, still handcuffed, before being caught by an ICE agent, court papers state.

Silva, who according to the court documents has convictions for theft, owning a chop shop, resisting a public officer and receiving stolen property, had twice been deported, according to the documents. He pleaded guilty Monday to being in the United States illegally after having been deported, court records show.

Those still being sought by law enforcement 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, and who has been charged 17 times with possessing a controlled substance, according to federal officials.

Schoch said authorities want to send a message that criminals will be punished if they break laws in the United States and flaunt border protections.

Cardona added that the operation shows federal authorities are committing resources to show that when caught, people who come to the United State illegally and commit crimes will not simply be sent across the border, only to return days later.

Schoch cited the numbers of those arrested in the recent action, saying they showed a significant impact.

That is making an impact. That is making this area safer, he said.

And yesterday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced a major take down of key leaders of the Loc Town Crips (LTC), a Stockton-based Cambodian street gang responsible for extensive drug and gun trafficking in California and throughout the country.

In the last six-month, the gangs participated in a least four drive-by shootings in the Stockton area alone. One gang member has already been arrested for homicide. The arrest is the largest California gang crackdown this year.

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