Law enforcement authorities cracked an apparent Southeast San Diego rock cocaine distribution ring Friday, arresting an alleged gang leader and 16 alleged members, U.S. Atty. William Braniff said.
Police have warrants out for 10 other alleged gang members who belong to the Syndo-Mob, bringing to 27 the people named in the 38-count federal indictment.
Braniff said the gang could be responsible for several drive-by shootings in Southeast San Diego.
“These crack cocaine gangs are exceedingly violent and will do whatever necessary to ensure their success,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Steve Nelson, coordinator of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
The task force is a special prosecution unit under the direction of the U.S. attorney’s office. It was formed about four years ago, and prosecutes drug-related cases brought by local, state and federal agencies.
Friday’s arrests were the result of a nine-month investigation by the organized crime task force; the countywide Integrated Narcotics Task Force; the San Diego Police Department; the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Internal Revenue Service, Braniff said. It was coordinated by the U.S. attorney’s office.
About 90 officers began serving search warrants at various spots in Southeast San Diego and National City at 7 a.m., a police spokesman said.
The alleged gang leader, Kevin (Schoolyard) Andre Standard, 24, of the 300 block of K Street in Chula Vista, and the 26 members are said to have sold up to 60 kilograms of rock cocaine a month at “rock houses.”
The gang is said to have gained distribution control through threats and violence.
“This will make a significant impact on the rock cocaine distribution in the Southeast portion of San Diego,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Michael Lasater.
Rock cocaine, which is smoked in a pipe, sells for about $100 for 2 grams, Lasater said. Police confiscated about 2 ounces of the drug at seven locations, along with 14 weapons, including three submachine guns.
The 17 arrested were in federal custody. Most will be arraigned Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Barry Ted Moskowitz.
If Standard is convicted of operating a continuing criminal enterprise, he could face a mandatory sentence of 10 years to life imprisonment.
If the others are convicted, they could face sentences of five years for selling from 5 and 49 grams of rock cocaine. Ten-year sentences are possible for selling more than 50 grams of the drug.
One known Syndo-Mob member, Stacy Butler, is charged with the January killing of rookie San Diego Police Officer Jerry Hartless. Butler, who is not named in the drug indictment, has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial April 3.
Police Lt. A. L. (Skip) DiCerchio of the Narcotics Task Force said the indictments center on reputed gang leaders.
“When you take away the top man and his lieutenants, you effectively destroy the organization. That’s when you make a dent” in the street supply of illegal drugs, he said.