Twenty-five members of an East Los Angeles street gang were arrested and five more were being tracked as fugitives as hundreds of agents swarmed the Eastside on Wednesday in an operation authorities said was aimed at weakening a gang that has been rooted in the community for decades.
The gang has been active in Boyle Heights for 50 years, officials said, describing the raids as a "day of accountability."
Federal prosecutors announced a sweeping indictment Wednesday morning against the Boyle Heights-based street gang, which they say has "deep ties" to the Mexican Mafia prison gang.
At least 38 members of the Big Hazard gang were indicted under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) statutes, federal officials said. In addition to the 25 who were arrested Wednesday and five being sought, one suspect was killed over the weekend, and seven were already in custody.
About 800 law enforcement agents made arrests and conducted searches across the Eastside on Wednesday, the U.S. attorney's office announced.
Seven of the 38 gang members named in the indictment were already in custody. Another was killed last week
The Mexican Mafia is the most powerful prison gang in California and carries influence with many other gangs while maintaining ties to Mexican drug cartels.
According to the indictment, the Eastside gang distributes methamphetamine, phencyclidine (PCP), crack cocaine, heroin and other controlled substances in neighborhoods it controls. Drug sales are a major revenue maker for the gang.
To maintain control of drug sales, members conduct surveillance on police and rivals and keep a cache of firearms, the indictment says.
Gang members are known to "brand" their criminal acts by shouting references to their gang before or during a crime to cause fear, the indictment continues. They are known to tag using Hazard-related symbols.
The gang uses murder, assault and threats to keep its members, associates and other Latino gangs in line, prosecutors said. The Mexican Mafia gives the gang the go-ahead to carry out the attacks, they said.
Gangs also harass, assault and threaten rival gangs and outsiders, including police and African Americans, the indictment says.
The indictment states that the gang "is governed by a set of unwritten rules, which are often violently enforced." Its leaders rely on women and teens to traffic drugs and carry out gang activity, according to the document.