RIVERSIDE - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the arrests of 52 individuals and the seizure of 67 firearms, including assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons, $95,700 in currency, and methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana with a total street value of $1.6 million, as part of a bust of two gangs operating in Riverside County.
Today’s operation targeted criminal street gang Corona Varrio Locos and Mexican Mafia prison gang La Eme and involved more than 300 law enforcement officers. The operation followed a joint investigation by the Corona Police Department, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Gang Task Force, and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation Special Operations Unit (SOU) Southern California team.
“Criminal gangs brazenly trafficking guns and drugs on our streets jeopardize public safety and will not be tolerated,” said Attorney General Harris. “I thank our California Department of Justice Special Agents, as well as the Corona Police Department, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol for their brave efforts to dismantle criminal enterprises in our Inland Empire communities.”
In addition to today’s arrests of 32 individuals and seizures of 50 guns including assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons, 314 rounds of ammunition, 1 stolen car, $48,700 in currency, 7 pounds of methamphetamine, 1 pound of marijuana, and 10 grams of cocaine, this investigation previously led to the arrests of 20 individuals for felony crimes including assault with a deadly weapon, extortion, and drug trafficking, and the seizure of 17 illegal firearms (handguns, assault rifles and shotguns), $47,000 in currency, 20 pounds of methamphetamine, and 10 pounds of cocaine.
These gangs traffic narcotics and illegal firearms, many of which were involved in crimes throughout Riverside County.
“Today’s joint operation and this entire investigation has been a great success due to the dedication and bravery of all the law enforcement agencies and personnel involved. The large amounts of narcotics, currency, and most importantly, the large cache of weapons seized, will no doubt disrupt the criminal gangs’ enterprise, thus making our communities that much safer,” said Corona Police Chief Michael Abel.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) also assisted with the investigation of the gangs’ trafficking in illegal firearms and narcotics, conducting cell searches within the California state prisons in coordination with the operation.
“Special Agents from the Special Services Unit of CDCR’s Office of Correctional Safety spent months tracking intelligence on the suspects. As a result of our agents’ work, and of the team effort of our law enforcement partners, a strong blow has been dealt to the Mexican Mafia that’s constantly working to extend their criminal enterprise in this region,” said Derrick Marion, Chief of the CDCR Office of Correctional Safety. “I commend our agents, who worked anonymously, and all our partners for their dedication, bravery and hard work.”
The Corona Varrio Locos are a criminal street gang operating in the city of Corona and surrounding areas of the Inland Empire. Corona Varrio Locos gang members are affiliated with the Sureños, a Southern California regional street gang that shows allegiance to the Mexican Mafia. The Mexican Mafia is a highly organized criminal organization that operates throughout the California prison system and is known by its Spanish slang name ‘La Eme.’ The Mexican Mafia is allegedly involved with murders, theft, and other criminal activities and gang members may be punished or murdered for committing infractions, refusing orders, or failing tests of loyalty to the gang.
The Special Operations Unit (SOU) is a collaborative investigative effort between the California Department of Justice and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) that provides statewide enforcement for combating violent career criminals, gangs, and organized crime groups, along with intrastate drug traffickers.
In 2014, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow worked with the Legislature and Governor Brown’s administration to secure $9.4 million for California DOJ Bureau of Investigation’s SOU teams. These unique and essential teams use the latest technology and advanced investigative techniques and work alongside local law enforcement to enhance investigations into violent criminals and organized crime throughout the state.
In 2015, the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation, Special Operations Unit arrested 329 individuals and seized over $249,000 in cash, eight stolen vehicles, 146 pounds of methamphetamine, 20 pounds of heroin, 12.2 pounds of cocaine, 131 pounds of marijuana and 196 firearms (126 handguns, 38 rifles, 15 shotguns and 17 assault weapons).
Photos are attached to the online version of this news release at oag.ca.gov/news.