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Los Angeles sues to halt crime at alleged gang stronghold

Authorities say that the apartment building in Pico-Union is the epicenter of the Mara Salvatrucha empire and that the owner allows MS-13 to carry out illicit activity from the site.

February 14, 2009|Richard Winton

Los Angeles city prosecutors filed a lawsuit Friday aimed at curtailing gang and narcotics activity at a Pico-Union apartment complex that authorities contend is the epicenter of the Mara Salvatrucha gang's empire.

The drug abatement and public nuisance lawsuit seeks a court order forcing the building's owner to curtail criminal activity at the property. It also seeks an order appointing a receiver, who would take over management of the property.

The suit is the latest effort by City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo's office to use the civil courts to crack down on alleged gang hangouts. Prosecutors say owner Jacob Libman allows the gang -- known as MS-13 -- to live in the building and use it as a stronghold for illicit activity.

"We are using every tool against this gang," said Bruce Riordan, the city's top gang prosecutor. "We want to keep MS-13 guessing what is going to happen next."

The action against the property, at 833 Fedora St., is part of the city attorney's Project TOUGH (Taking Out Urban Gang Headquarters), which has already targeted several gang-controlled properties. One was a residence used by the Avenues gang on Drew Street. It was demolished last week.

Prosecutors say the 24-apartment building on Fedora has become a magnet for crime. Since October 2004, dozens of crimes have been committed at or near the property, Riordan said.

The suit also alleges that the landlord permitted the gang to run an "after-hours club" where alcohol, drugs and sex were available for purchase. Libman is already facing a felony drug charge in connection with a December 2008 arrest, according to prosecutors.

Libman could not be reached for comment.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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