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24 Arrested in Raids Targeting Street Gangs

While the detainees are believed responsible for violent crimes, the multi-agency effort focused on suspected drug trafficking.

June 27, 2003|Hilda Munoz | Times Staff Writer

Twenty-four suspected ringleaders of what law enforcement officials called some of the most violent street gangs in Los Angeles were arrested Thursday in raids coordinated by local and federal agencies.

Although suspected of violent crimes, the detainees were arrested on suspicion of violating drug laws, in addition to fraud, identity theft and motor vehicle violations.

"Our investigation went at them in a different way," said Ronald L. Iden, assistant director of the FBI in Los Angeles. "Instead of reactively investigating the homicides, murders, robberies they may have been involved in, we looked at the drug trafficking activity that fuels violence." Agents also seized about $100,000 in heroin and cocaine and 15 firearms, Iden said, and are continuing to search for four other suspects.

The arrests were part of a two-year investigation by the FBI and the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff's departments. It targeted high-ranking members of the Blood Stone Villains and the Pueblo Bishops, which operate mainly in the LAPD's Newton Division.

"This long-term proactive investigation targeted the most criminally active and violent members of those gangs," Iden said. "Today's efforts have significantly disrupted those gangs."

Iden said members of both gangs have terrorized the community and have been arrested on charges involving murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, possession of firearms, armed robberies and drugs.

The two dozen people arrested Thursday, including several women, range in age from early 20s to late 40s and "are suspects in a number of unsolved homicides," Iden said.

"Many of those homicides are difficult to solve, because any witnesses in the community are reluctant to come forward and testify."

LAPD Chief William Bratton said: "Today you clearly see the benefit of getting the federal government involved with us."

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