ATF

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

May 15, 2009

www.atf.gov

Contact: Nina Delgadillo, PIO, ATF

Pager: (888) 533-8597

Kevin Kimmey, Sergeant, CHP

Office: (805) 239-3553

Mike Richards, Commander, MCSO

Phone: (831) 755-3761

ATF Teams Up With Partners in Operation Money Train

11 Month Undercover Investigation Yields Guns, Drugs and Stolen Cars

SAN MARTIN, Calif. — Special Agent in Charge Stephen C. Herkins of the San Francisco Field Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); California Highway Patrol Chief Adam Cuevas of the Coastal Division, Sheriff Mike Kanalakis of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Louis Fetherolf of the Salinas Police Department, and Special Agent In Charge Bob Cooke of the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, announced today the culmination of a long term undercover investigation which will result in the arrest of 52 defendants in a sweep of narcotics traffickers, firearms violators, and car thieves operating in and around the Salinas and Gilroy areas.

In June 2008, a multi-agency undercover investigation was initiated within the Salinas valley. The joint effort included ATF, the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), the Salinas Police Department (SPD), the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE) – Santa Cruz County Narcotic Enforcement Team (SCCNET), and prosecutors from the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office and the United States Attorney’s Office in San Jose. The goal of the undercover operation was to target criminal street gang members and other criminal associates who were stealing vehicles and dealing in firearms and narcotics trafficking in the Salinas area.

During the course of the undercover investigation, 57 stolen vehicles were recovered with an approximate value of $500,000, and 25 firearms were purchased and four firearms were recovered. In addition, approximately 1,361 grams of crystal methamphetamine was purchased or recovered; approximately 180 grams of heroin was purchased or recovered; and 320 grams of cocaine was recovered. The seized and recovered narcotics have an estimated street value of more than 1.4 million dollars. A number of the defendants were identified as felons; some are documented gang members and associates.

Fifty two suspects are subject to arrest for a variety of state and federal violations. Of those 52 suspects, approximately 15 will face federal charges. The federal charges include: felons in possession of a firearm, illegal alien in possession of a firearm, possession of an unregistered firearm, and the illegal sales of narcotics substances. The state charges are predominantly drug charges and possession of stolen vehicle charges.

Operation Money Train is reflective of the connection between stolen cars, guns, drugs and violent crime. This operation shows the effectiveness of combining resources from federal, state and local law enforcement, as well as private agencies in the effort to curtail criminal activity in Monterey County, said Adam Cuevas, Division Chief of the Coastal Division of the CHP. Cuevas commended the more than 130 law enforcement personnel who participated in this week’s roundup of suspects. Assisting ATF, the CHP, the MCSO, the SPD and the BNE’s SCCNET, were: the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Watsonville Police Department, and the Santa Cruz Police Department.

Positive change takes time, resources and good old fashioned police work. I am pleased to say we are in command of all three. I commend the dedication and hard work of the agents and officers of the agencies represented here today, their efforts will have an impact on violent crime in the Salinas area, said ATF’s Stephen Herkins.

This is an excellent example of interagency collaboration and cooperation in a long term investigation. Because of the diligent hard work by the task force officers, our community is safer tonight. I am especially pleased that so many vehicles were recovered and so many gang members were arrested and taken off the streets. These kinds of results don’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and time, but the investment was well worth it. To those engaged in stealing cars as part of a criminal enterprise — beware. The long arm of the law will eventually find you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law, said Sheriff Kanalakis, of the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.

Operation Money Train is an example of how successful cooperation between law enforcement agencies works to disrupt the criminals who disrupt the order of our communities and negatively impact the lives of many residents. While incarcerated, they will no longer victimize the people we serve, said Chief Terry Medina, of the Watsonville Police Department.

By removing the people who committed these crimes we have put a huge dent in their on-going criminal enterprises, said Monterey County District Attorney Dean D. Flippo.

The investigation is on-going and arrests continue. All defendants are presumed innocent until they have been convicted.

For more information on ATF and additional programs designed to reduce violent crime, go to www.atf.gov.

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