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Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office Launches Operation Safe Cities to Coordinate Regional Law Enforcement Response to the Most Violent Offenders Involved in Commercial Robberies and Gun Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – Federal and local law enforcement officials today announced the launch of Operation Safe Cities, an initiative that includes new protocols, enhanced partnerships and a renewed emphasis on violent crime designed to increase federal prosecutions of the region’s most violent criminals, particularly those involved in commercial robberies, kidnappings, extortions and gun offenses.

Combatting violent crime is one of the Justice Department’s top priorities, and this United States Attorney’s Office is strengthening existing partnerships and creating new connections between federal and local law enforcement to take the most violent and repeat offenders off the streets.

Operation Safe Cities builds on long-standing connections between local authorities, federal agents and federal prosecutors. These relationships have yielded numerous significant and impactful cases over the years, and federal authorities now are strengthening these partnerships by conducting outreach to the officers and detectives who typically have the best knowledge of the most dangerous criminals and by streamlining the process to present cases to federal prosecutors.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will bring federal resources to investigations, which will be particularly helpful when, for example, robbery crews operate across jurisdictional lines or when sophisticated investigative tools are needed to develop leads, process evidence or track firearms. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office are part of the initiative, and other local agencies are expected to join in the near future.

Defendants charged in United States District Court with violent and gun-related offenses face significant sentences in federal prison, where there is no parole. For example, commercial robbery offenses charged under the Hobbs Act each carry up to 20 years in federal prison, and these sentences can be significantly increased if the perpetrator used – or simply possessed – a firearm. Under federal law, armed career criminals with three prior convictions for violent offenses face a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison for possessing a firearm.

“Both individual victims and entire communities are being traumatized by the epidemic of gun violence, and the Justice Department is committed to saving lives and improving public safety by using every possible tool to target offenders,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “We are increasing our collaboration among law enforcement agencies to lock up offenders who are a demonstrated threat. Violent crime threatens everyone’s sense of security, which is why we are fully committed to improving and expanding our response to the most dangerous criminals.”

“Violent criminals that inflict harm in our communities and threaten public safety need to be held accountable with the full weight of the justice system,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna. “Our coordinated efforts with local, state, and federal partners will safeguard our communities and keep dangerous, career criminal off the streets.”

“Violent crime has no place in any of our communities,” said Los Angeles Police Chief Dominic Choi. “Together, we are more effective, stopping gun and violent crime throughout the region. I am proud of our partnership with the U.S. Attorney, other Federal partners, as well as regional partners as we work towards safer communities collaboratively.”

“We are excited about strengthening an already solid relationship with our federal partners,” said Ventura County Sheriff Jim Fryhoff. “Having the full weight of the federal government behind our efforts to keep our communities safe from violent crime is not only important, it’s crucial. I appreciate the ongoing partnership with the United States Attorney’s Office as well as our alliance with other federal and local law enforcement agencies.”

Operation Safe Cities establishes strategic enforcement priorities with an emphasis on prosecuting the most significant drivers of violent crime. Across this region, the most damaging and horrific crimes are committed by a relatively small number of particularly violent individuals. The United States Attorney’s Office has established protocols for the intake of cases that will go beyond the traditional federal-state task force model that has long been in place. Federal prosecutors will train state law enforcement partners on identifying and supporting federal prosecutions in these areas. A team of federal prosecutors will also be assigned to identify investigations and cases appropriate for prosecution. This strategic enforcement approach is expected to increase the number of arrests, prosecutions and convictions of recidivists engaged in the most dangerous conduct. It is designed to improve public safety across the region by targeting crimes involving illicit guns, prohibited persons possessing firearms, or robbery crews that cause havoc and extensive losses to retail establishments.

“We have limited enforcement resources, but we can multiply our efforts by collaborating with our colleagues at local police agencies to have the most significant impact on violent crime,” U.S. Attorney Estrada stated. “Operation Safe Cities will allow us to identify and use the best available intelligence and information to assess the violent crime problem and the offenders who drive that violence.”

“The FBI and our partners in local law enforcement work together on task forces throughout the United States to investigate a range of violent and gun-related offenses targeting innocent victims,” said Amir Ehsaei, the Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “We look forward to the enhanced resources provided by the United States Attorney’s Office through the Safe Cities initiative in order to further pursue federal charges for crimes harming our communities.”

“Last year the ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division initiated almost 500 cases with 93% of those cases being firearms-related investigations,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Bombardiere of ATF Los Angeles Field Division. “ATF reduces violent crime by partnering with the federal, state and local law enforcement as a force multiplier. By enhancing our existing partnership and providing federal investigate tools we aim to create safer cities throughout the Los Angeles area. ATF will continue to work tirelessly with its partners to target violent criminals, as well as identify, investigate and arrest those who illegally supply firearms to prohibited individuals.” 

The United States Attorney’s Office has worked with its law enforcement partners for years to address gun-related crime and recently has increased the number of federal cases against violent criminals engaged in Hobbs Act violations, including commercial robberies and extortions. Already this year, the office has obtained four indictments naming a total of nine defendants who allegedly participated in commercial robberies, with three of those cases involving firearms and one alleging a “smash and grab” robbery at a jewelry store.

In 2023, grand juries indicted 16 Hobbs Act robbery cases (two of which involved carjackings), eight bank robbery cases, a stand-alone carjacking case, a Hobbs Act extortion and a kidnap for ransom case.

In 2022, federal prosecutors secured indictments in 18 Hobbs Act robbery cases, three bank robbery cases and three postal robberies, one of which involved a postal carrier robbed at gunpoint. These 24 cases charged a total of 40 defendants.

Since the beginning of 2022, the United States Attorney’s Office has charged nearly 600 defendants with illegal gun possession offenses, and nearly 30% of these cases involved “ghost guns.” Approximately 450 of the defendants in these firearms cases were allegedly felons in possession of firearms or ammunition. Dozens of other defendants were charged with possessing machine guns and other illegal firearms, including short-barreled rifles and silencers.

Some of the recent cases handled by the office and involving partners in Operation Safe Cities include:

  • A robbery crew dubbed the “all-armed bandits”

Federal prosecutors this week charged two additional defendants who allegedly were part of a 2023 string of armed robberies of pharmacies, restaurants and marijuana dispensaries – a total of 19 robberies that spanned Los Angeles County. Even after authorities arrested three of the alleged robbers in late October, members of the robbery crew continued committing crimes. On November 24, following the robbery of a CVS store, Inglewood police responded and, following a high-speed pursuit that ended with a vehicle collision, arrested two adults and a minor. A federal criminal complaint filed Tuesday charges the two adults – Adrian Timothy Bedran, 23, of Rosemead, and Kevin Antwan Gadley, 19, of San Fernando – meaning that six defendants have now been charged in federal court. Bedran and Gadley, who are currently in state custody, each are charged in the complaint with Hobbs Act robbery and using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. They are expected to be arraigned sometime next week. A federal grand last year returned a 26-count indictment that charged the three original defendants and fourth who allegedly participated in the robberies. A trial for these four defendants is currently scheduled for June 18. If convicted at trial, the ringleaders of the “all-armed bandits” would face mandatory minimum sentences of more than 40 years in federal prison, and potentially life imprisonment.  The FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are the lead investigating agencies on this matter, which is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin Butler and Jena MacCabe of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.

  • Massage parlor robberies

Two Los Angeles County men were indicted earlier this month for allegedly conducting a series of armed robberies of massage parlors earlier this year in Orange County and Torrance. Andy Cuellar, 28, of Hawthorne, and Arturo Morales, 27, of Downey, were arrested one month ago today. The 12-count indictment specifically charges the two defendants with robbing five massage parlors – two on January 22 – and using a firearm in all the incidents. Cuellar and Morales are also charged with being felons in possession of firearms and ammunition, with the indictment alleging that Cuellar has prior convictions for burglary and a scheme to import methamphetamine and that Morales was previously found guilty of conspiracy and threaten with intent to terrorize. Both men are being held without bond and are currently scheduled to be tried on April 30. If they were to be convicted, Cuellar and Morales each would face potential sentences of more than 100 years in federal prison. The ATF, several Orange County police agencies and the LAPD are investigating this matter. AUSAs MacCabe and Butler are prosecuting this case.

  • Felon in possession cases

In a case filed Tuesday, Rodolfo Hernandez Jr., 28, of Oxnard, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, specifically a .38-caliber revolver and several types of ammunition. Hernandez, who is currently in Ventura County Jail, was arrested February 28 after Oxnard Police officers stopped him in relation to a robbery investigation. When police searched his vehicle, they also recovered a Mac-11 machine gun. According to the federal criminal complaint, Hernandez has five prior felony convictions, including for assault with a deadly weapon, felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a controlled substance while armed. The FBI and the Oxnard Police Department under the auspices of the Ventura County Violent Gang Task Force, which includes the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, is conducting the investigation in this matter. Assistant United States Attorney Joseph DeLeon filed the federal charges in this case.

An Inland Empire man – Frank Escobar Jr., 35, of San Bernardino – was sentenced in February to 15 years in federal prison for possession of ammunition, receiving the mandatory minimum sentence for being an armed career criminal. On May 13, 2023, Escobar threatened family members at their residence with a loaded firearm and discharged the gun multiple times. In a sentencing memo that recounts how Escobar fired the gun at the feet of the victims and into a wall of the residence, prosecutors argued that this “[d]efendant’s criminal history is marked by a pattern of extreme and repeated acts of violence.” Assistant United States Attorney Kelsey A. Stimson of the General Crimes Section prosecuted this matter, which was investigated by the ATF.

Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin Butler and Jena MacCabe, both of the Violent and Organized Crime Section, and Ian Yanniello and Ben Balding, both supervisors in the General Crimes Section, have been designated as Violent Crime Coordinators to implement the initiative, conduct further outreach and training to local police agencies, and oversee the prosecution of cases under Operation Safe Cities.


Thom Mrozek
Director of Media Relations
(213) 894-6947

Updated March 22, 2024

Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 24-062