SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced the arrest of 49 individuals; seizure of 120 firearms, including assault rifles and automatic weapons; $170,261 in currency; and cocaine, marijuana and 6.5 pounds of methamphetamine with a total street value of $1.7 million, as part of a takedown of gang members operating in Merced County.
Today’s operation targeted Sureño criminal street gang subsets and their criminal enterprise directed by the Mexican Mafia prison gang. It involved more than 500 law enforcement officers. The operation was the product of a joint investigation by the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation, Special Operations Unit (SOU), Central California team, the Merced Area Gang and Narcotic Enforcement Team (MAGNET), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).
“Merced County residents should sleep a little easier tonight after today's arrest of gang members and seizure of firearms and drugs,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Keeping our communities safe must be our number one priority. Today’s bust is a prime example of law enforcement working together at all levels to put criminals behind bars.”
In addition to today’s arrests and seizures, the overall investigation resulted in the arrest of 66 individuals; seizure of 120 firearms; $265,961 in currency; and cocaine, marijuana and more than 6.5 pounds of methamphetamine. Pursuant to the collaboration with the Merced County District Attorney's Office and the US Attorney’s Office, charges against those arrested include assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy to traffic firearms and drugs, and possession of firearms and ammunition by prohibited persons in the benefit of the Merced County Sureños criminal enterprise.
The year-long investigation chronicles a rise in violent crime involving Sureño gang members and its leadership. So far, at least eight homicides and violent assaults have been solved, and 16 additional violent crimes in the planning stages were prevented.
“Today was a tremendous day for public safety in Merced County,” said Merced County DA Larry D. Morse II. “Some of the most violent criminals in our community have been taken off our streets along with many of the weapons they use to commit murder and mayhem. Sheriff Vern Warnke, Atwater Police Chief Sammy Joseph and the rest of Merced’s law enforcement leaders are beyond grateful for the assistance we received today and over the last several months from our colleagues at the federal and state agencies who made today’s stunning success possible.”