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OC Gang Sweep

OC Gang Sweep

SANTA ANA (CNS) - About 1,000 local, state and federal law enforcement  officers with search warrants raided about 70 Orange County addresses and  arrested 51 gang suspects today in a follow-up to a crackdown on the Mexican  Mafia started two years ago.

A multi-jurisdictional task force this afternoon sought 23 other  fugitives as part of  ``Operation Smokin' Aces,'' Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony  Bertagna said.

So far, 129 gang members and their wives or girlfriends have been  indicted so far in state and federal courts, Laura Eimiller of the FBI said.

The raids were an extension of Operation Black Flag, a similar Mexican  Mafica crackdown in July 2011, Bertagna said. About 100 people were charged in  the raid targeting ``shot-callers,'' U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.

Today, law enforcement officers targeted ``street soldiers,'' as well as  their wives and girlfriends, who are mainly responsible for smuggling  messages, or ``kites,'' out of prison from the shot-callers, Birotte said.

``In some ways, that's a first,'' Birotte said of targeting wives and  girlfriends. ``They play a critical role when (gang members are) in prison  because they've got to get a message out.''

An Orange County grand jury indicted 43 for a variety of crimes,  including assaults and an attempted murder of 12 inmates in Orange County jails  ordered by Mexican Mafia leaders, according to the Orange County District  Attorney Tony Rackauckas. It was the largest state grand jury case in the  county's history, he added.

Three alleged gang members, who were not part of the indictments, have  been charged with murder in a related case that was a hit ordered by the  Mexican Mafia, Rackauckas said.

In February, the trial of three men arrested for a 2009 beating in Theo  Lacy jail two years ago ended with plea agreements when jurors could not find  enough common ground for a unanimous verdict.

Peter Ojeda, one of the reputed leaders of a gang in the Mexican Mafia  and other co-defendants were indicted in Operation Black Flag and scheduled to  be tried March 25.

Smokin' Aces is a reference to law enforcement ``smoking out'' the Aces  street gang in Santa Ana. Ojeda, scheduled to be tried next year, is scheduled  to be released from prison in a few years. In 2005, he accepted a plea deal to  racketeering charges, Thom Mrozek of the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

During the most recently probe, undercover officers bought 67 weapons,  seized 22 pounds of methamphetamine, 1.5 pounds of heroin and three pounds of  cocaine. Thirty-eight of the weapons were handguns and 29 were rifles.

Orange County Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen said Operation  Black Flag focused on criminal activity that stemmed from a feud between Ojeda  and another gang leader, Armando ``Mando'' Moreno, while the latest operation  relates to violence involving Ojeda's alleged desire to ``clean house'' after  prevailing over Moreno's attempt to take over Mexican Mafia operations in  Orange County, Petersen added.

In the Orange County murder case related to this investigation, three  men have been charged, with two at-large, prosecutors said.

Robert Gaxiola, 43, and Jose Anguiano, 35, are believed to be in Mexico,  according to prosecutors. Ismael Esquivel, 34, is in custody being held  without bail.

The three were charged Monday with a count of conspiracy to commit  murder and murder with sentencing enhancements for murder committed for a  criminal street gang purpose and committing a crime to benefit a criminal  street gang. Esquivel is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.

Esquivel is an alleged high-ranking gang member who lives in Orange  County while Gaxiola and Aguiano are accused of shuttling back and forth from  Mexico to Southern California, according to prosecutors.

They are accused of killing 39-year-old Juanita Carillo-Ortiz in a  Tijuana hotel room April 1 of last year, Petersen said. Investigators will not  say how she was killed.

Carillo-Ortiz's killers burned the body and dumped it in a remote part  of Mexico, Petersen alleged.

Carillo-Ortiz allegedly told Orange County gangsters that she  represented the Mexican Mafia in Los Angeles and had authority to collect  ``taxes'' while ordering Orange County gang members not to pay ``taxes'' to  area gang leaders, Petersen alleged.

``She may or may not have had orders from the Los Angeles Mexican  Mafia,'' Peterson said. ``She probably would not take that up on her own.''

Authorities recovered her body, exhumed it in Mexico and brought it back  to Orange County, where investigators determined the identity by using DNA  from a relative, Petersen said.

Law enforcement officers involved in the raids included members of the  U.S. Attorney's Office, Orange County District Attorney's Office, the FBI,  federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Internal Revenue Service,  Santa Ana police, Orange County Sheriff's Department and state Department of  Corrections.

 

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