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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Sweep of Northern California Gang With 23 Arrests and Seizure of Drugs, Guns and Cash

Thursday, May 5, 2011
Contact: (415) 703-5837

SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced the successful conclusion of a major law enforcement sweep that shut down a father-and-son-led criminal operation connected to violent transnational and prison gangs that dealt in narcotics and firearms in Butte, Glenn, Sacramento, Placer and Yuba counties.

“As long as violent gangs continue to wreak havoc up and down California,” Attorney General Harris said, “my office will continue to partner with local law enforcement to shut them down and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”

As part of an operation code-named “Mario Brothers,” a joint task force of more than 200 local, state and federal law enforcement agents led by Attorney General Harris’ Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement concluded an investigation into a drug-dealing ring with connections to the criminal street gang known as the Nortenos, which has ties to the vicious prison gang Nuestra Familia.

Yesterday in Chico and surrounding areas, agents arrested 23 individuals and seized a significant stash of methamphetamine, marijuana and cocaine. Police also seized eight firearms, including two assault rifles, and more than $17,000 in currency.

Those arrested include Mario Salazar, 57, of Chico and his son, Jose Salazar, 31, of Hamilton City. Mario Salazar dealt in multiple pounds of methamphetamine by tapping into his son’s gang affiliation.

Operation Mario Brothers began in August 2010, when the North Butte Interagency Narcotic Task Force sought assistance from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. Through surveillance and other investigative techniques, agents determined that the Salazars dealt methamphetamine, and bought and sold firearms, in several counties.

The operation is the latest in a series of actions by Attorney General Harris designed to attack transnational gang violence. In February, agents arrested three associates of a Tijuana drug cartel in a murder-for-hire plot in Southern California. In March, the Attorney General brought law enforcement leaders from across the state to California’s border with Mexico to see firsthand the problem of transnational gangs smuggling guns, drugs and human beings across the border. Last month, the Attorney General announced the creation of the first multi-agency gang task force in Tulare County.

Four of every 10 homicides that occur in California are gang-related, and more than 80 percent of the California cases in which relocation is required for the protection of witnesses involve gang violence.

Along with agents from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the operation was conducted by the North Butte Interagency Narcotic Task Force; the Butte County Sheriff’s Office; the Chico Police Department; and federal agents with the FBI and ICE.

Search warrants were served at 16 locations in Butte, Placer, Sacramento and Yuba counties. Those arrested were booked into the Butte County jail.

Yesterday’s bust follows closely on the heels of another major gang sweep in Contra Costa County, which netted 35 arrests and the seizure of more than 135 pounds of methamphetamine. (http://oag.ca.gov/news/press_release?id=2082&p=3)

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