SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Forty-five people with links to six criminal street gangs, most of them alleged drug traffickers selling methamphetamine, were charged in federal court in San Diego with gun and drug-trafficking crimes, authorities announced Thursday.
Following a yearlong investigation and a three-day gang sweep that concluded this morning, 40 defendants were in custody and 52 weapons were taken off the streets, said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.
A coalition of local, state and federal agents also conducted searches in eight locations, including sites in Linda Vista, Midtown, City Heights, Mid City, Clairemont Mesa and Oak Park.
Many of the locations are homes where drugs and guns were stored or sold, including an apartment across the street from Hoover High School.
Agents and detectives seized $47,600 in cash at a house in Oak Park, bringing the total cash seized to almost $60,000.
Among the guns seized in the investigation, dubbed "Crystal Palace II," were numerous assault rifles, a 9mm (Tec 9) with a high capacity magazine and a couple Norinco Mak 90 7.62 (AK 47s) with high capacity magazines.
Ten indictments unsealed this week describe five different conspiracies with overlapping players, including individuals with ties to the Oriental Killer Boys, the Oriental Mob Crips, the Viet Boys, the Tiny Oriental Crips, the Logan Heights Calle Treinta and Linda Vista Crips.
According to the indictments and search warrants, some of the defendants were felons in possession of firearms.
"We are absolutely committed to making our neighborhoods safe from violent gang activity and drug trafficking," Duffy said.
According to court documents, some of the defendants were distributing methamphetamine far beyond the borders of California -- from Hawaii to Guam, and from central California to Minnesota.
The case is the latest in a series of federally-charged, large-scale multi-agency crackdowns on street gang activity in San Diego County neighborhoods, Duffy said. Including today's indictments, nearly 300 people have been charged in a number of major federal gang prosecutions since January 2012, with scores of guilty pleas entered.
According to Duffy, federal prosecutions of methamphetamine drug crimes in the Southern District of California, which includes San Diego and Imperial counties, have increased more than 500 percent in the last five years.
While San Diego County was once known for its proliferation of meth labs, the supply of meth has shifted to "superlabs" operated by drug cartels in Mexico, Duffy said. As a result, meth seizures at U.S. ports of entry along the California-Mexico border have almost doubled over the past three years.
"Meth abuse and trafficking are tremendous problems in our country and our county, and they urgently require more resources and attention," Duffy said. "For all these reasons, in 2014-2015, my office will be taking a harder look at our role in attacking these problems."
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