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Release No. 07-097
July 27, 2007
FEDERAL AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES TARGET DRUG TRAFFICKING IN GANG-PLAGUED SOUTH L.A. ‘GHOST TOWN’ NEIGHBORHOOD
Operation includes Arrests, Seizures, Forfeiture Lawsuits, Abatements
Highlighting the power of a partnership between federal and local law enforcement authorities, 43 gang members and associates of “East Side Pain” who operated in the troubled “Ghost Town” section of South Los Angeles have been arrested on narcotics and weapons charges, and prosecutors have moved to forfeit and shut down buildings linked to their drug trafficking and other criminal conduct.
In addition to the arrests, federal and local prosecutors have filed five asset forfeiture lawsuits and five nuisance abatement lawsuits. Furthermore, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives executed 22 search warrants, seizing guns, marijuana, crack cocaine and cash.
The multi-agency enforcement action in Ghost Town was announced at a press conference this afternoon by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, ATF Special Agent in Charge John Torres, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and other federal and local officials.
“The Ghost Town operation is the latest example of how federal and local authorities have come together to use all of the different tools available to us to fight the most entrenched gangs in our communities,” said Assistant United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien, Chief of the United States Attorney’s Office Criminal Division. “As part of our long-standing battle against streets gangs and organized crime, we have utilized many tactics, but no strategy is as important as officials from all levels of government joining together to share resources and to bring their particular expertise to the table.”
Seven of the defendants arrested today are named in criminal complaints filed in United States District Court. Of those seven charged in federal court, three defendants potentially face life without parole in federal prison if they are convicted of narcotics-trafficking offenses and related enhancements. Those three defendants are Marvin Reed, 44, of Wilmington; Ruben Vazquez, 39, of Long Beach; and Tyus Newborn, 31, of Wilmington.
John A. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF in Los Angeles, stated: “Today ATF is reinforcing the message that we will not put up with armed gang violence and the drug trade that fuels it. We are warning all gang members that if they don’t stop terrorizing our neighborhoods and cities, the combined weight of federal, state and local law enforcement will come after them and bring them to justice, thus making our neighborhoods a safer place for us all.”
More than three dozen defendants arrested will be prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on state narcotics charges.
"We were happy to play a major role in this investigation by assisting the Los Angeles Police Department in preparing the search warrants that were served today," said District Attorney Steve Cooley. "We also will be prosecuting the majority of the cases that have resulted from this effort to protect the public in the Harbor area by curtailing drug sales."
Civil forfeiture complaints have been filed in federal court against four residential properties in Ghost Town and the Catalina Motel on Pacific Coast Highway. The lawsuits allege that each property is subject to forfeiture on the ground that it has been used to facilitate the sale of illegal narcotics.
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has filed five nuisance abatement lawsuits as part of its Project T.O.U.G.H. – Taking Out Urban Gang Headquarters – a program that focuses on property abatements through lawsuits seeking aggressive and specifically tailored injunctive relief against property owners and gang members.
“This effort puts gang members throughout the City on notice: We will fight you with every tool at our disposal, at all levels of government,” added Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. “We will target you as individuals for the crimes you commit, and we will target the locations you hide in to commit those crimes. Together, we will put you out of business.”
The Ghost Town action is the latest successful operation in Southern California in which federal and state law enforcement authorities targeted gang members. In only the past six months, joint operations have included:
Operation Clean House, an investigation by the Coachella Valley Gang Task Force, which led to the arrest of 13 members of a narcotics trafficking ring, including a member of the Mexican Mafia (see: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/cac/news/pr2007/062.html);
Operation Community Shield, in which 124 gang members were arrested on criminal and administrative immigration charges (see: http://www.ice.gov/pi/news/newsreleases/articles/070606la.htm);
Eight members of the Rollin’ 30s Harlem Crips gang were arrested in an ATF-led operation that involved three local police departments, including the LAPD (see: http://www.atf.gov/press/2007press/field/030907la_gangmembers-arrested.pdf);
ATF, LAPD and the U.S. Secret Service joined together to target the Neighborhood Crips gang (see: http://www.atf.gov/press/2007press/field/041207la_cripsgangmembers-arrested.pdf); and
The ongoing Project Safe Neighborhoods program, which has led to more than four dozen defendants being charged in federal court with firearms, narcotics and immigration offenses.
"The Los Angeles Police Department in partnership with city, state and federal agencies have developed strategies to eradicate the cycle of violence and crime that has gripped this community," said LAPD Chief William Bratton.
Release No. 07-097
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