Transnational Gangs

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Bust of Corona Varrio Locos and La Eme Gangs Operating in Riverside County, Seizure of $1.6 Million in Drugs

June 9, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

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. 

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Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Seizure of $10 Million in Cocaine

May 31, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, the L.A. IMPACT task force, led by the California Department of Justice, today seized 83 kilograms of cocaine, worth an estimated street value of $10 million, from a bus traveling across the U.S. border from Mexico. The cocaine was sent through the San Ysidro Port of Entry from Tijuana, Baja California.

Agents also arrested Victor Fainz Miranda, 33, Jaime Jimenez, 50, and Humberto Vazquez, 48, at 545 North Avalon Boulevard, Wilmington, CA.  The suspects are currently in custody. 

“Transnational criminal organizations terrorize our communities, traffic massive amounts of illegal drugs and guns into our neighborhoods, and undermine  public safety,” said Attorney General Harris.  “This operation shut down a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise  to traffic illegal narcotics across the border.  I want to thank our California Department of Justice Special Agents with L.A. IMPACT and our state, local, and federal partners for their tireless efforts to dismantle transnational criminal organizations.”

L.A. IMPACT is comprised of numerous local, state, and federal agencies and led by the California Department of Justice. 

Attorney General Harris has called the trafficking of drugs by transnational criminal organizations, particularly methamphetamine, a growing threat to the state and a top priority for law enforcement in her 2014 report, Gangs Beyond Borders: California and the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime, which was the first comprehensive report analyzing the state of transnational criminal organizations in California.  The report also outlined recommendations to address the flow of illegal drugs into the United States, much of it through the San Diego Port of Entry, which include increased funding for state anti-narcotics trafficking task forces and additional coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in combatting transnational criminal organizations.

Following the release of the report, Attorney General Harris led a delegation of state attorneys general to Mexico to strengthen working relationships between the governments of both countries and enhance efforts to combat transnational crime. The delegation met with Mexican state attorneys general and federal officials to discuss the issues of drug, human and firearms trafficking, money laundering and high-tech crime. 

Photos from today's bust are available online at http://oag.ca.gov/news/photo-gallery/ca-doj-led-la-impact-task-force-seizes-83-kilograms-cocaine-major-bust

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Takedown of Stockton Criminal Street Gangs ‘Westside Bloods’ and ‘Taliban’

May 19, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

STOCKTON — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the successful takedown of two criminal street gangs in the Stockton area, following a joint investigation and operation by the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation Special Operations Unit (SOU) and the Stockton Police Department’s Gang Violence Suppression unit.

The joint operation, named Operation Bloodline, resulted in the seizure of 22 illegal firearms, $12,000 in currency, and 41 pounds of marijuana; as well as the arrests of 52 individuals on felony crimes.

The investigation found that ‘Westside Bloods’ and ‘Taliban’ gangs have been illegally purchasing firearms and are responsible for numerous armed robberies and shootings in the Stockton area, including a recent triple homicide. 

Several attempted murders and robberies were solved or circumvented as a result of the investigation.

“Members of these two street gangs have terrorized the Stockton community and escalated violence and the proliferation of illegal guns in the city.  Today, the California Department of Justice, the California Highway Patrol and the Stockton Police Department have made significant strides toward dismantling these groups and increasing safety in Stockton,” said Attorney General Harris. “I want to thank our DOJ Special Agents and the dedicated officers of the Stockton Police Department and the California Highway Patrol for their incredible efforts in this case.”

“We identified two groups, through an Operation Ceasefire analysis, who were significant security threats to our community based upon documented shootings, murders and attempted murders, in 2015,” said Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones. “I would like to thank everyone involved for assisting with the ongoing efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal street gangs in and around the City of Stockton.”

Stockton and surrounding areas suffer from high rates of homicides and other gun crimes, with 44 homicides reported in Stockton in 2015 and 14 homicides to date in 2016.

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).

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Takedown of Fresno Gang, “Dog Pound Gangsters”

April 21, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

FRESNO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced a takedown targeting the Dog Pound Gangsters, a Fresno-area criminal organization, following a year-long joint investigation by the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation Special Operations Unit (SOU) and the Fresno Police Department. 

The investigation, Operation Dog Track, resulted in the arrests of 28 individuals who have been charged with a range of federal crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder, human trafficking, and fraud.  Those arrested are expected to be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of California.

“Street gangs must be held accountable for terrorizing our communities,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. “I’m thankful for the bravery and diligence of our Special Agents, the Fresno Police Department, and the other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies working together to dismantle criminal organizations and protect victims of trafficking and fraud throughout the Central Valley.”

"The dismantling of the Dog Pound Gang's leadership will send a shockwave throughout the gang community and significantly reduce gang violence in Fresno for many years," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

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.

“A partnership like the California Department of Justice SOU, working with allied law enforcement agencies, was crucial to this important investigation,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said.  “I am proud the CHP was able to provide its expertise and thank everyone involved for their dedication and professionalism.”

The joint investigation found that the Fresno Dog Pound Gangsters have transported human trafficking victims across state lines, in violation of the federal Mann Act, primarily victimizing women to generate income that funds other criminal activities.

According to the affidavit, the Fresno Dog Pound Gangsters have also been involved in violent crimes, credit card fraud, and bank fraud. Several violent assaults, murders, and shootings were solved or circumvented as a result of this investigation.

Attorney General Harris released a 2014 report, Gangs Beyond Borders: California and the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime, which is the first comprehensive report analyzing the current state of transnational criminal organizations in California. The report identified human trafficking as an emerging aspect of these organizations’ criminal activities, and made recommendations to address this issue, including by funding state task forces to investigate and disrupt these organizations.

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. 

Since 2012, the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation Special Operations Unit (SOU) has arrested 551 individuals and seized over one million dollars in cash, 20 pounds of heroin, 64 pounds of methamphetamine, 145 pounds of marijuana, 13 pounds of cocaine, and over 400 weapons.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Bust of Violent Norteño Gang in Tulare County

October 1, 2015
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

TULARE – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced the arrest of 52 individuals as part of an ongoing investigation into violent Norteño gang activity in Tulare County, following a rash of homicides in the region. 

“This operation captured dangerous criminals accused of terrorizing Central Valley communities through murder and violence,” said Attorney General Harris.  “We will continue to target violent street gangs by dismantling their networks and taking these dangerous criminals off our streets. I thank our DOJ Special Agents and local law enforcement partners for their dedicated work to keeping our communities safe.”

The TARGET Task Force, the Tulare County Sheriff's Department, the Visalia Police Department, the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office, and the California Department of Justice and California Highway Patrol’s Fresno-based Special Operations Unit (SOU) jointly conducted the multi-month investigation and today’s takedown.  

The TARGET Task Force was created by Attorney General Harris in 2011 and includes the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation, Visalia Police Department, Tulare County Sheriff's Department, Tulare Police Department, and the California Highway Patrol.

"The collaboration demonstrated by multiple law enforcement agencies, including our partners at the Department of Justice, have proved very successful today,” said California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Keeping the communities safe that we have been entrusted with protecting is of utmost importance to the CHP. I very much appreciate the professionalism of all of those who carried out this dangerous operation."

Today’s Operation Red Sol, a multi-agency gang takedown, led to the arrest of 52 individuals, including Pedro “Pistol Pete” Sanchez, a Norteño leader in charge of running the gang’s illicit day-to-day operations.  Those arrested face felony charges ranging from conspiracy to commit homicide, attempted homicide, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, extortion, home invasion, weapons possession and sales of narcotics. 

This is the most violent group of Norteño gang members investigated by the Department of Justices’s Special Operations Unit to date. Over the course of the investigation, an additional 38 individuals have been arrested.

The operation also resulted in the seizure of $34,000 in cash, six firearms and small amounts of narcotics.

The case will be prosecuted by the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office.

In 2014, Attorney General Harris and California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow secured $9.4 million in funding for California Department of Justice Bureau of Investigation’s SOU teams. These unique and essential teams are a partnership between DOJ and CHP, using the latest technology and advanced investigative techniques to work alongside local law enforcement to enhance investigations into violent criminals and organized crime throughout the state.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Over $2 Million in Grants to Fight Methamphetamine and Gang Activity in California

September 29, 2015
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that the California Department of Justice has been awarded over two million dollars in federal grants to fight gang activity and the manufacturing and distribution of methamphetamine throughout the state. The grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office.

California DOJ received $1,499,814 from the COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program and $747,629 from the COPS Anti-Gang Initiative. 

“Methamphetamine is a dangerous drug that threatens the health and safety of our communities,” said Attorney General Harris. “These federal dollars will support our statewide work to aid in the dismantling of criminal organizations and combat the deadly and violent impacts of this drug on our streets.”

The Attorney General’s 2014 report, Gangs Beyond Borders: California and the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime, found that California is the primary entry point for methamphetamine smuggled into the United States, with as much of 70 percent of it entering through San Diego alone. From 2012 – 2013, California DOJ-led task forces confiscated 3,146 pounds of the drug.    

The COPS Office is awarding more than $6.1 million under the COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program to seven state-level law enforcement agencies dealing with high seizures of precursor chemicals, finished methamphetamine, and laboratories. The award will fund DOJ efforts to investigate illicit activities related to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine in California.

Under the COPS Anti-Gang Initiative, the COPS Office is awarding close to $5.8 million to nine multijurisdictional task forces to address gang activity. The initiative focuses on combating gang activity through enforcement, prevention, education, and intervention. This award aims to support multijurisdictional partnerships between federal, state, and local law enforcement to address all forms of gang activity.

The COPS Office is a federal agency within the United States Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Indictment of 32 Members and Associates of Long Beach Crip Street Gang Tied to $14.3 Million Identity Theft and Tax Fraud Scheme

August 10, 2015
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced today the takedown of a Long Beach Crip street gang that operated an identity theft scheme to perpetrate tax fraud, stealing over $3.3 million and attempting to steal over $11 million via tax fraud. The operation resulted in 22 members of the Insane Crip street gang being taken into custody on charges that include 283 counts of criminal conspiracy, 299 counts of identity theft, 226 counts of grand theft and 58 counts of attempted theft.

“This violent street gang orchestrated a sophisticated scheme to steal the identities of hardworking Californians and defraud the government of millions in taxpayer money,” Attorney General Harris said. “These victims had their identities stolen and face financial harm as a result of this theft. My office is committed to dismantling these criminal organizations and targeting their illicit income sources. I thank our law enforcement partners for their thorough investigation in this matter.”

"Our detectives did an outstanding job uncovering this crime scheme," said Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, "Our partnership with assisting law enforcement agencies was instrumental in bringing this case together. These financial crimes are funding gang activity within our city and impacting the lives of many people through monetary loss and concerns about vulnerability.”

“Today’s arrests are a victory for law enforcement in the ongoing battle against gangs who commit financial crimes through our nation’s mail system and victimize an entire nation of law abiding citizens,” said Robert Wemyss, Inspector in Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service.  “Postal Inspectors remain dedicated to collaborating with our law enforcement partners in the investigation of these crimes that victimize our citizens and finance criminal enterprise.”

The arrest is the culmination of a three-year investigation into the Insane Crip street gang that began after a Long Beach crime spree tied to the gang. A Long Beach Police Department detective discovered evidence containing the personal identifying information of hundreds of California residents at an address associated with the gang. The defendants had used the stolen personal identifying information to commit financial crimes, including identity theft and tax return fraud.

The defendants exchanged the stolen information via text messages to the leaders of the scheme, who would then file fraudulent tax returns, obtain the refunds and load them onto prepaid debit cards in the name of other victims. The debit cards were then used to fund the gang’s illicit activities, lavish lifestyle and to recruit members.

Tax return fraud occurs when an individual files a fraudulent tax return with someone else’s personal identifying information and collects a tax refund from the IRS. Victims are unlikely to know their identities have been stolen until they attempt to file a tax return that is rejected by the IRS because one has already been filed.

The Attorney General’s eCrime Unit (eCU) and Financial Frauds and Special Prosecutions Section (FFSPS) are jointly prosecuting the case, which resulted from an investigation by the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

In March, Attorney General Harris issued tips for Californians to avoid tax-related identity theft and on how consumers can protect themselves. These tips and additional resources can be found here

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Takedown Operation of Violent Merced Street Gang

May 28, 2015
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

MERCED – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the takedown of a Merced area street gang that included the arrest of 75 individuals and the seizure of $85,000 in cash, 5,000 pirated DVDs, firearms, and narcotics. The multi-agency takedown targeted gang members from the Merced County Nortenos street gang.

“This operation captured dangerous criminals that are suspected of committing homicides throughout the Central Valley,” Attorney General Harris said. “We will continue to dismantle violent street and prison gang networks by cutting off their flow of money, recruits and communications. I want to thank our DOJ agents and local law enforcement partners for their work on the front lines of this fight every day.”

The investigation, named Operation Red Right Hand, represents the culmination of a five monthlong joint investigation by the California Department of Justice and California Highway Patrol’s Special Operations Unit, Merced Police Department, Merced County Sheriff’s Department, Merced County District Attorney's Office, Merced Multi-Agency Narcotic Task Force (a Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking (HIDTA) team), Atwater Police Department, Los Banos Police Department, Merced County Probation Department, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Parole Division.

Operation Red Right Hand began after a series of gang related homicides in Merced County that started in 2013. The multi-agency investigation aimed to identify Nortenos gang members and associates most likely to participate in or carry out violent crime, dismantle the sources of income for the gang, remove known recruiters within the organization and disrupt communications.

The investigation found that the Nortenos had authorized a war against the Crip criminal street gangs in Merced. In addition, investigators learned that Nuestra Familia, a California prison gang, had instructed the local Nortenos gang to kill and assault members who decided to drop out of the organization.   

Today’s joint investigation resulted in the seizure of 5,000 pirated DVDs, 1,500 pseudoephedrine pills, $85,000 in cash, 11 firearms, four pounds of methamphetamine, three pounds of cocaine, one pound of heroin and 50 pounds of marijuana.  In addition, law enforcement arrested 75 gang members and associates over the course of the operation. The suspects are charged with homicide, attempted homicide, accessory to murder or attempted murder, conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon and assault likely to produce great bodily injury, weapons possession, and sales of narcotics or counterfeit items.

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 are a partnership between DOJ and CHP and use the latest technology and advanced investigative techniques to work alongside local law enforcement to enhance investigations into violent criminals and organized crime throughout the state.

California Department of Justice Special Operations Unit Assists in Oakland Gang Takedown

March 5, 2015
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND— Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the takedown of an Oakland area criminal organization, including the arrest of 16 individuals and the seizure of 36 weapons.

The investigation, named 69th Avenue Village, represents the culmination of a five month long, joint operation with California Department of Justice’s Special Operations Units, California Highway Patrol and Oakland Police Department.

“We are committed to dismantling violent street gangs terrorizing our communities,” said Attorney General Harris. “I want to thank our Department of Justice agents, California Highway Patrol and the Oakland Police Department for their work to keep our communities safe.”

“We are relieved to have built cases on these violent individuals,” Oakland Police Department Chief Sean Whent said. “This extensive investigation was made possible because of the continued commitment of our partner agencies. We understand we have much more work to do and we are dedicated to our role in creating a safer Oakland.”

Operation 69th Avenue Village began in November 2014 with a request for assistance from the Oakland Police Department in investigating two of East Oakland’s violent rival gangs, the 65th Avenue Village Gang and the 69th Avenue Village Gang.  Over the past 15 years, these gangs have been involved in violent acts including robberies, home invasions and homicides.

Today’s joint investigation resulted in 22 search warrants served, including probation and parole searches.  In addition, law enforcement arrested 16 gang members and associates, and seized 36 weapons over the course of the operation. The members were charged with criminal conspiracy, gang enhancements, weapons violations, attempted murder, assault, and probation and parole violations and will be prosecuted by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.

In 2014, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris 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. 

Over the past four years, California Department of Justice special agents have seized over $200 million in cash, 10,000 kilos of cocaine, 12,000 pounds of methamphetamine, and taken nearly 12,000 illegal guns off the streets in California.

 

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Sponsors Legislation to Support Law Enforcement Efforts in Combatting Transnational Crime

February 23, 2015
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced her sponsorship of two bills that will help provide enhanced support to law enforcement agencies in their investigations of transnational criminal organizations.

Transnational criminal organizations have made California the single biggest point of entry for methamphetamine into the United States, with 70% entering through the San Diego Port of Entry. These organizations transfer billions of dollars out of the U.S. through California. As much as $40 billion in illicit funds were laundered in the state in 2012, according to Attorney General Harris’ 2014 report, Gangs Beyond Borders: California and the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime.

“Transnational criminal organizations rely on a steady flow of billions of dollars in laundered money to support their operations,” Attorney General Harris said.  “The legislation I am sponsoring will equip local and state law enforcement with more tools to target their illicit profits and dismantle these dangerous organizations.” 

Senate Bill 298  (Block, D-San Diego) would add money laundering to the list of predicate offenses for wiretapping under Penal Code  629.52 if the money laundering is associated with a organized criminal group and the value of the transactions exceeds $50,000. Currently, the existing wiretap statute only applies to drug trafficking, human trafficking and street gang felonies – which all have a direct nexus to transnational criminal organizations. This bill would allow law enforcement to utilize wiretaps to investigate financial fraud, allowing them to target the financial pipeline that sustains the operations of transnational criminal organizations. 

“If money is the root of all evil, then money laundering is the insidious offshoot,” said State Senator Marty Block. “Money laundering camouflages the profit from heinous crimes such as human and weapons trafficking and allows criminals to profit from and expand their operations. SB 298 hands law enforcement another tool to fight the most grievous crimes they face.” 

Assembly Bill 443 (Alejo, D-Salinas) would allow for the preservation of criminal assets before charges are filed under the following circumstances:

  • at least $10,000 is at stake
  • the judge finds a substantial probability that charges will be filed and the government will prevail
  • the proceeds will otherwise be destroyed or made unavailable
  • the need to preserve outweighs any hardship of the party impacted.

AB 443 addresses the gap in law that prevents prosecutors from freezing criminal proceeds prior to an indictment being filed, leading to criminal organizations disposing of these assets once a charge has been brought against them. The bill will allow prosecutors to effectively disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations and other sophisticated criminal profiteers.

“Gang violence and crime continue to be serious problems across the state, and we must take steps to diminish the grip they have on many of our most disadvantaged communities,” said Assemblyman Alejo.  “Many of these organizations are operating in cities that I represent - Salinas, Watsonville, Soledad and King City. They use our kids as pawns, many of whom wind up in jail or dead, and they do this all to make a profit.   By freezing the assets of criminal organizations, we hit them where it hurts most, and we can put a halt to their operations.”

In March 2014, Attorney General Harris issued “Gangs Beyond Borders: California and the Fight Against Transnational Organized Crime,” the first comprehensive report analyzing the current state of transnational criminal organizations in California. The report is the first comprehensive report analyzing the current state of transnational criminal organizations in California and the threats they pose to the state’s public safety and economy.

The report also outlined recommendations to address this problem, which include increased funding for state anti-narcotics trafficking task forces and additional coordination between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in combatting transnational criminal organizations. The report is available here: https://oag.ca.gov/transnational-organized-crime.

Following the release of this report, Attorney General Harris led a delegation of state attorneys general to Mexico to strengthen working relationships between the governments of both countries and enhance efforts to combat transnational crime. The delegation met with Mexican state attorneys general and federal officials to discuss the issues of drug, human and firearms trafficking, money laundering and high-tech crime.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and the four other state attorneys general also signed a letter of intent with the National Banking and Securities Commission of Mexico to establish a bi-national working group on money laundering enforcement. 

In October 2014, Attorney General Harris announced the creation of a new anti-methamphetamine team of Special Agents based Los Angeles funded by a $1 million federal grant. The team will be comprised of six Special Agents assigned to investigate illicit activities related to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine in California and will work in a coordinated effort with the other 18 existing California Department of Justice task forces. 

Over the past four years, California Department of Justice special agents have seized over $200 million in cash, 10,000 kilos of cocaine, 12,000 pounds of methamphetamine, and taken nearly 12,000 illegal guns off the streets in California.