Twenty-one people suspected of carrying out crimes on behalf of the Mexican Mafia in Orange County remain at large after a raid early Tuesday resulted in 55 arrests.
In what authorities described as a major blow to the Mexican Mafia, 129 people were indicted by federal and state authorities on racketeering and other charges related to what officials said was a criminal enterprise that engaged in murder, extortion and drug-dealing.
The 2 1/2-year probe was dubbed Operation Smokin’ Aces and was conducted by FBI agents, Santa Ana police officers, Orange County sheriff’s detectives and members of the Orange County district attorney’s office and other agencies, officials said.
In addition to the 55 arrests, an additional 51 suspects were already in state or federal prison, officials said. One of those named in the federal indictment is dead and another was deported.
The indictment describes violent gangsters operating on the streets and in the jail in the heart of Orange County.
The operation, the indictment says, was carried out by a crew of ranking gang members with names such as “Lil Bogart,” “Creeper,” “Big Shotgun” and “Bugsy.”
After the raid was completed Tuesday, 21 people listed in the indictment remained at large, officials said.
Still, the indictments are crucial, said Richard Valdemar, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigator who was on the first task force that targeted the Mexican Mafia.
“But it’s like the Italian Mafia,” Valdemar said. “We hurt them, but they don’t stop functioning.”
Smokin’ Aces is the latest law enforcement operation targeting the Mexican Mafia in Orange County and its affiliated gangs, particularly in Santa Ana.
In 2011, Operation Black Flag resulted in charges against 99 suspected gang members from Orange, Los Angeles and Riverside counties. So far two-thirds of those have been convicted in state and federal court, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman with the U.S. attorney’s office.
Times staff writers Robert Lopez and Richard Winton contributed to this report.