24 Gang Suspects Held in Raids on Drug Ring
Two dozen suspected gang members were arrested early Thursday as authorities conducted raids in Lynwood and Compton in an attempt to break up a sophisticated cocaine distribution network.
Most of the suspects were arrested quickly and without incident, authorities said.
But one suspect, 24-year-old Roberto Suarez, held off sheriff’s deputies for more than five hours as he refused to come out of a home in Lynwood.
Deputies tried to get him out using persuasion and tear gas, which wafted across the quiet neighborhood and at one point forced a crowd of curious neighbors to run for cover. Suarez was arrested after television news crews wandered into a neighboring yard. Deputies then found Suarez hiding in a garage.
Law enforcement officers said they arrested the gang’s alleged leader, Frederick Staves, 38, on Wednesday and set out early Thursday to catch additional suspects who reportedly worked under him as part of the Santana Block Crips.
By late Thursday, 24 people, including Suarez, were in custody. Still sought were suspects Patricia Allen, Ganeta Carter, Donnie Howard, Laurence Reed and Marcos Yanes.
Most of those caught were charged with conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Officers seized at least 10 firearms, including an AK-47 assault rifle, an undisclosed amount of cash and drugs, and several lowrider cars with murals of gang life painted on the sides. Among them was a show car decked in chrome that investigators estimated could be worth as much as $250,000.
Staves was a hobbyist whose “love was those lowrider cars,” said Richard Garcia, a special agent in charge of the FBI in Los Angeles.
He said investigators believe Staves had been involved in gangs since the 1970s and had built the Santana Block Crips into a businesslike cocaine distribution ring, receiving cartel drugs from Mexico and sending them out around the country.
Unlike many such gangs, Garcia said, the group even had its own money-laundering unit, allegedly run by Staves’ wife, Guadalupe Yanes Staves, who also was arrested. She is alleged to have run a business for this purpose called OG’s Paging Network.
Other lieutenants and buyers were responsible for moving quantities of cocaine to dealers in Texas, Ohio and elsewhere, Garcia said.
The two-year investigation preceding the raid was conducted by a task force of agencies, including the FBI; federal Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Marshals Service; Internal Revenue Service; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Immigration and Naturalization Service; and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
It started, an FBI spokesman said, after authorities in Compton struggling to deal with increasingly violent neighborhood gangs sought help from federal agencies.
Suarez, the final suspect arrested, was taken into custody near Olanda Street and Stoneacre Avenue in Lynwood after a long siege reminiscent of the last week’s deadly one in Stevenson Ranch. This one, however, ended much more quietly.
Deputies who first tried to serve a warrant on Suarez backed off after he sent his girlfriend and two small children out of the house, and they heard what they thought was the sound of a rifle being prepared for firing.
After tear gas and a compression grenade failed to get Suarez out of the house, officers went inside. They emerged shortly after to declare it empty and began to leave the scene.
A sheriff’s spokesman said later that dogs picked up Suarez’s scent and led deputies to him.
But Warren Wilson, a reporter for television station KTLA, said he and another reporter had tried to follow a woman identified as Suarez’s girlfriend into the backyard of a neighbor’s house after deputies began packing to leave.
Deputies told the news crews to leave, Wilson said, and there was some “yelling and screaming” between reporters and deputies in the backyard. Within a few moments, though, deputies found Suarez hiding in the attic of the garage, Wilson said.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.