Top Mexican mafia leaders among defendants in gang sweep - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Top Mexican mafia leaders among defendants in gang sweep

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Federal indictments and complaints were unsealed Wednesday charging 117 street gang members and associates of the Mexican Mafia in San Diego -- including two Mexican Mafia leaders -- with racketeering conspiracy, drug trafficking and firearm offenses.

Officers from state, local and federal agencies fanned out across San Diego County this morning, taking 104 defendants into custody.

The sweep -- involving three separate investigations -- is believed to be one of the largest ever in San Diego.

"I cannot remember an operation of this magnitude," said Sheriff Bill Gore. "San Diego County is a lot safer this morning than it was yesterday."

Charges resulted from "Operation Notorious County," an 18-month investigation led by the North County Regional Gang Task Force; "Operation Carnalismo," led by a group of federal, state and local law enforcement agents, including some from the FBI; and "Operation 12-Step," led by the East County Regional Gang Task Force.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said ridding communities of gang violence was one of her main goals when she took office.

She said charges outlined in the racketeering conspiracy involved "a lot of violent acts," including attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

In one instance, a drug dealer was stabbed and shot when two defendants confronted him about being "shorted" in a methamphetamine transaction, Duffy said.

She said Wednesday's takedown "attacks every level of the Mexican Mafia," with two of the organization's top three leaders in San Diego now in custody.

"We landed a blow against the leadership of the Mexican Mafia," Duffy told reporters.

Alleged Mexican Mafia leaders Rudy Espudo and Salvadore Colabella were charged in separate indictments.

"The cases unsealed today make communities stronger and safer," Duffy said.

More than 14 pounds of methamphetamine, weapons and at least $150,000 in cash were seized during Wednesday's raids, Duffy said.

To those who think involvement in gang activity in San Diego isn't a big deal, "they need to think twice," Duffy said.

She said her office is "fiercely committed" to making communities safer by ridding them of illegal gang activity.

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