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Gang raid nets meth and cash

The arrests of 45 in and around San Bernardino cap a seven-month DEA and police investigation. The goal is to dismantle the organization.

December 13, 2006|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

San Bernardino police and federal officials on Tuesday confiscated $500,000 in cash and arrested 45 alleged gang members believed to be major suppliers of methamphetamine in San Bernardino and the surrounding area, authorities announced.

The bust was the culmination of a seven-month investigation by San Bernardino police and the Los Angeles field office of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Over the course of the investigation, officers confiscated $820,000 in cash, 56 guns, 41 vehicles and 35 pounds of methamphetamine -- the primary drug distributed by the group, federal agents said.

During the seven months, officials arrested 119 people, including five men believed to be top Mexican Mafia associates in San Bernardino, police officials said.

Crime has emerged as a major political issue in San Bernardino in recent years, as the number of murders and violent crimes has increased after a lull in the late 1990s.

It was the central issue in the mayor's campaign this year, and city residents recently approved a sales tax increase to generate revenue for more officers and crime-prevention programs.

San Bernardino police requested the assistance of the DEA to deal with the surge in methamphetamine and weapons trafficking by gangs in the city.

"When you take this much drugs, this much money and this many guns off the street, it's going to have an impact on crime," said Lt. Mark Garcia, a spokesman for the San Bernardino Police Department.

Special Agent Sarah Pullen, a spokeswoman for the DEA, said the drug seizures and arrests Tuesday morning involved 400 officers who served 43 simultaneous search warrants in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, including five at the reservation of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in Highland.

She said those arrested ranged from the "shot-callers" to street-level dealers and muscle.

"The goal of this investigation was to dismantle this organization," said Pullen, who said authorities could not provide details about who was part of the organization or how they operated.

"We are hopeful that over the next few months that basically the entire organization operating out here will be pretty much gone."

The San Bernardino County district attorney's office is expected to file weapons, drug and probation charges against many of the alleged gang members as early as today, Pullen said.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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