ATF

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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

July 8, 2009

Thomas P. O’Brien, Acting United States Attorney

Contact: Thom Mrozek, Public Affairs Officer

(213) 894-6947

thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov

Investigation Targeting Varrio Hawaiian Gardens Gang And Associates Is Largest Gang Case In U.S. History With Nearly 200 Defendants Named In Federal Indictments

27 More Taken Into Custody In Expansion Of Case Stemming From Murder Of
Sheriff’s Deputy, Attacks On African-Americans And Widespread Drug Trafficking

In the nation’s largest-ever gang investigation and prosecution, a law enforcement task force this morning arrested an additional 11 defendants named in federal charges that are linked to the Hawaiian Gardens gang that was previously the subject of a sweeping racketeering indictment. The 11 defendants arrested today are among 24 people named in a federal narcotics-trafficking indictment that outlines a drug pipeline to and from members of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang.

In related developments across four Southern California counties today, another nine defendants were arrested and are expected to be charged in state court. Authorities also seized eight firearms, more than 400 rounds of ammunition, one pound of methamphetamine and a ballistic vest. Seven additional defendants charged in federal court were recently taken into custody.

With the investigation dubbed Operation Knock Out drawing to a close, federal authorities have unsealed indictments charging 192 defendants, and 132 of those defendants have been taken into custody. With dozens of arrests leading to charges being filed in state court, Operation Knock Out has led to more than 300 gang members and associates being taken off the street.

“This extremely successful investigation has led to a series of federal indictments against nearly 200 defendants who face the potential of lengthy prison sentences in federal penitentiaries, where there is no parole,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “The experience of conducting the largest gang sweep in U.S. history has taught us the power of law enforcement joining together to target criminal organizations that cause so much pain in our communities. As we have seen in other areas, such as the Drew Street section of Los Angeles, law enforcement can have a lasting impact to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”

Today’s action is the second phase of Operation Knock Out, a coordinated investigation targeting Varrio Hawaiian Gardens and other gangs, including East Side Paramount, 18th Street, Morton Town Stoners, Santanas, Carmelas, Varrio Grape Street Watts, Compton T-Flats and Nazi Low-Riders. In May, in the first phase of Operation Knock Out, approximately 1,400 law enforcement officers arrested scores of defendants named in a racketeering indictment and related cases. A 57-defendant RICO indictment of the Hawaiian Gardens Gang unsealed in May describes the gang’s war against the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, as well as systematic efforts to rid the community of African-Americans with a campaign of shootings and other attacks.

The investigation into the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang began after the fatal shooting of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Jerry Ortiz, who was gunned down four years ago by a gang member he was attempting to arrest on suspicion of shooting an African-American man. While the gang member, Jose Orozco, was quickly apprehended and currently sits on death row, the shooting of Deputy Ortiz sparked Operation Knock Out. To date, 132 defendants have been arrested on federal charges, and authorities are continuing to identify and apprehend additional defendants named in the federal indictments.

In addition to the murder of Deputy Ortiz, the racketeering indictment discusses other violent attacks, drug trafficking, carjackings and kidnappings. For example, George Manuel Flores, the lead defendant in the RICO indictment and a longtime member of the Hawaiian Gardens gang, allegedly ordered the murder of another gang member who was believed to be cooperating with law enforcement. Flores is also accused of providing a young gang member with a weapon and instructing him to shoot African-Americans who lived nearby.

During this investigation, approximately 33 pounds of methamphetamine were seized, along with lesser quantities of other narcotics and approximately 125 firearms. The 11 defendants arrested today on federal charges are expected to make their initial appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

Operation Knock Out was an investigation into Varrio Hawaiian Gardens, as well as other gangs and individuals who were involved in criminal activity, conducted by the Los Angeles High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, which is comprised of agents and officers with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and IRS–Criminal Investigation. The following agencies provided extraordinary support during both investigations and operations: the United States Marshals Service, the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the Long Beach Police Department, the Ridgecrest Police Department, the Downey Police Department, the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, the Bell Gardens Police Department, the Buena Park Police Department, the Costa Mesa Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Joint Forces Joint Training Base at Los Alamitos, the Los Angeles Police Department, the South Gate Police Department, the Hawthorne Police Department, the Montebello Police Department, the Santa Monica Police Department, PROAC, the Ontario Police Department, the San Diego Narcotics Task Force, the Riverside Sheriff’s Department, LA Impact, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services’ Multi-Agency Response Team.

Contact: Assistant United States Attorney Michael Lowe
Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force
(213) 894-6526

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