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California

26 charged after predawn raids targeting street, prison gangs in San Diego County

Hundreds of federal agents and local law enforcement officers conducted dozens of predawn raids across San Diego County on Thursday, arresting alleged gang members and others with suspected gang ties on drug, gun, racketeering and other charges, authorities said.

The raids were the culmination of a yearlong investigation targeting alleged members of several San Diego-area street gangs and the Mexican Mafia, a notorious prison gang. Federal charges were levied Thursday against 26 defendants.

During the probe, the region’s Violent Crimes Gang Task Force seized nearly 230 firearms and seven pounds of methamphetamine, according to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California.

“The seizure of hundreds of firearms is a very significant strike against gang violence in our communities,” U.S. Atty. Adam Braverman said in a statement.

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In total, six complaints were filed in U.S. District Court, with some of the 26 defendants named in just one complaint, and others in multiple complaints. The charges include racketeering, methamphetamine trafficking, a methamphetamine conspiracy charge, unlawful possession of a machine gun and other drug and gun charges.

Thursday’s predawn “Operation Sureño Sweep” involved more than 200 agents from the FBI and other federal agencies, sheriff’s deputies from San Diego County and police officers from San Diego, National City, Chula Vista, La Mesa and El Cajon.

The 20 defendants who were in custody Thursday — six remained at large — were arraigned in U.S. District Court. All pleaded not guilty to the charges. Prosecutors have asked a judge to order the defendants held until they are tried, with a hearing set next week for a judge to rule on that motion.

alex.riggins@sduniontribune.com

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Riggins writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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