Massive Law Enforcement Operation Targets
JUN 25 -(LOS ANGELES) Seventy members and associates of the Drew Street clique of the Avenues street gang have been named in a federal racketeering indictment that alleges a long series of narcotics-related offenses and violent crimes – including murder, attacks against police officers, witness intimidation and extortion of local businesses. This morning, during a massive law enforcement operation involving more than 500 federal, state and local authorities, 32 defendants were taken into custody on the federal charges that could bring life-without-parole prison sentences for some of the gang members. Twenty-six defendants were already in state and federal custody. Today’s operation caps an investigation conducted by the HIDTA Task Force (High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area), in conjunction with the Los Angeles Police Department.
“For the past few years, if you heard someone refer to 'Drew Street' in Los Angeles, the word 'Gang' would quickly follow because drugs, guns, and fear plagued this once promising neighborhood,” said Timothy J. Landrum, DEA Special Agent in Charge. “That's why I can understand residents who routinely said that they thought this day would never come. A day when the 'good guys' would win a significant battle in a gang war that has brought so much tragedy to so many innocent people. With today's arrests of 32 gang members, it's time to once again start referring to Drew Street, not as a gang, but as a neighborhood - as a community. Today, DEA, with the strong support of LAPD and our Los Angeles HIDTA partners, dismantled this violent gang and drug trafficking organization in Northeast LA.”
The gang problem in and around Drew Street received substantial attention early in 2008 when several members of the gang murdered a rival gang member who was walking his two-year-old granddaughter and later engaged in a shootout with Los Angeles Police officers. These shootings incidents are alleged as racketeering acts in the indictment.
“The case highlights a progressive law enforcement model in which federal authorities join with their local counterparts to quickly investigate and target a significant number of gang members who have plagued a neighborhood for upwards of two decades,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. According to the 157-page indictment returned by a federal grand jury on June 12, 2008, and unsealed this morning, members and associates of the Drew Street gang are part of a criminal enterprise that, at its heart, is a violent, drug-trafficking organization. The Drew Street clique is part of the Avenues street gang in northeast Los Angeles, and it controls drug-trafficking activity and, to a significant degree, all manner of life, in the area surrounding the intersection of Drew Street and Estara Avenue. The organization operates and maintains its control through attacks directed at law enforcement, intimidation, extortion, and robberies and murders of both rival gang members and members of the general public.
“Local, state, and Federal law enforcement agencies are working together every day to put criminal street gangs out of business and return our neighborhoods to our law-abiding residents," said City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. “Today’s operation represents the largest scale use of property abatement actions against a street gang in the history of this city, and it’s a testament to our commitment to using newer, more effective strategies to deal with gangs. Our action will have a lasting and positive impact upon local residents.”
The leadership of the Drew Street gang – notably “shot-caller” Francisco “Pancho” Real, who is the lead defendant in the indictment – collects “taxes” from those who sell narcotics in the neighborhood, according to the indictment. A portion of the taxes is then paid by gang leaders to the Mexican Mafia. Drew Street gang members also raise funds for the Mexican Mafia by conducting armed home-invasion robberies and collecting extortion payments from area businesses. The Mexican Mafia allegedly authorized Francisco Real to take control of the Drew Street clique less than a year ago.
“Today’s joint city, state and federal agency operation is the first phase of a three-step plan to restore hope and revitalize a residential and business community,” said Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton. “Collectively, we remain committed to effecting positive change in this community.”
During the course of the investigation, authorities seized multiple firearms, including 7 guns that were discovered during this morning’s operation. Members of the Drew Street gang obtained guns from a number of sources, one of whom was bringing firearms from Arizona, which they used in relation to various crimes, according to the indictment.
“Violence should not control our neighborhoods,” said Christopher Shaefer, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Los Angeles Field Division. “Our homes, where we raise our children and families, should be a safe haven. The residents of Drew Street should sleep better tonight knowing that positive change is imminent. ATF and our partners will continue our mission to keep the public safe.”
“Today’s enforcement action deals a major blow to a ruthless criminal organization whose violence and brazenness has made them notorious even among other street gangs,” said Robert Schoch, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Los Angeles. “Attacking and dismantling dangerous street gangs is one of ICE’s top enforcement priorities. We are gratified when those efforts result, as they did today, in the capture of suspected criminals who used violence and intimidation to hold an entire neighborhood in their sway.”
“The citizens of Glendale have been victimized by members of the Drew Street area gang for many years,” said Glendale Police Chief Randy G. Adams. “The Glendale Police Department is pleased to be involved in the investigation and eventual prosecution of these career criminals. Gangs and their criminal activity know no geographic boundaries and the joint efforts of local, state and federal agencies will make a difference.”
Thomas M. Jankowski, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of IRS – Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office, stated: “The indictment of Francisco Real and members of the Drew Street gang on federal racketeering, narcotics trafficking, money laundering and asset forfeiture charges is the result of a highly successful multi-agency investigation into the gang’s criminal activity. IRS – Criminal Investigation plays a unique role in federal law enforcement in that we target the profit and financial gains of criminals and their organizations. IRS - Criminal Investigation specializes in following the money, enabling increased criminal prosecutions and asset forfeitures as a result.”
This case is the product of a 10-month investigation by the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA), which is made up of agents and officers from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The Los Angeles HIDTA received significant contributions to this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation from: the Drug Enforcement Administration; Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Internal Revenue Service; United States Attorneys Office; United States Marshals Service; Los Angeles Police Department; Ontario Police Department; San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department; Riverside County Sheriff’s Department; Riverside Police Department; Glendale Police Department; Long Beach Police Department, Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court.