A drug-trafficking ring that distributed cocaine through urban street gangs was broken up Thursday with the arrest of the alleged leader and four other people, the FBI said.
Officers from a federal-local law enforcement task force also seized 79 kilograms of cocaine in early morning raids throughout the Los Angeles area.
The arrests and seizures followed a yearlong undercover investigation into what agents described as a mid-level Mexican drug ring that sold kilogram quantities of cocaine to a number of street gangs.
They allegedly included the 118 East Coast Crips, the Bounty Hunter Bloods, the Venice Shoreline Crips, the Athens Park Bloods, the P.J. Crips and the Lantana Block Crips.
The cocaine was resold in cities as far away as Chicago, St. Louis, Baltimore and Little Rock, Ark., authorities said.
Arrested were Francisco Martinez-Gutierrez, 36, of Gardena, the alleged ringleader; Marco Antonio Ramirez, 25, of Santa Ana; Jose Gonzalez-Gutierrez of Gardena; Rogelio Lopez-Garcia, 28, of Van Nuys; and David Jay Davis, 39, of Los Angeles.
Three other suspects were being sought late Thursday.
The FBI said the drug traffickers operated out of auto body repair shops in Gardena and Ontario. Using hidden cameras and court-approved wiretaps, investigators from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department were able to monitor the suspects' comings and goings as well as their telephone conversations.
The flow of cocaine from Mexican drug cartels to American street gangs has been the subject of an ongoing nationwide investigation.
In a related operation last month, more than 70 suspected gang members were arrested in Los Angeles, Little Rock and Baltimore on charges ranging from drug sales to money laundering. The FBI said the suspects purchased the narcotics from drug cartel middlemen in Los Angeles.