FBI raid in Logan Heights - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

FBI raid in Logan Heights

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A drug investigation that started in El Cajon about this time last year snowballed into a major roundup of alleged gang members and associates around the San Diego area Thursday, authorities said.

U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said at a news conference that 45 people were arrested at numerous locations throughout the region, and that law enforcement officers were still searching for nine other suspects.

The defendants took part in three conspiracies that overlapped, leading to racketeering charges under the RICO Act, Duffy said.

"Today's RICO charges can be viewed as nothing less than a virtual wrecking ball crashing into the ruthless, ultra-violent West Coast Crips, a gang that has been a scourge on San Diego communities for far too long," Duffy said.

She said the case will have a "significant" impact on public safety in areas dominated by the gang, such as El Cajon, Spring Valley and the San Diego neighborhoods of Logan Heights and East San Diego.

Authorities said the El Cajon Police Department started a drug investigation last spring and detectives found links to various other cases throughout the region. Eventually, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, FBI and San Diego Police Department got involved.

Duffy said investigators intercepted tens of thousands of "disturbing" phone calls involving the suspects.

"The West Coast Crips gang members think nothing of killing their rivals around San Diego," Duffy said. "They also think nothing of executing their own."

One murder case linked to the defendants was of a member of the gang, Paris Hill, who talked to police about a homicide, she said. The 20-year-old man was found mortally wounded in the Webster neighborhood early last month.

Among other alleged crimes outlined by prosecutors:

-- a random Hispanic gang member was shot dead, allegedly revenge for an October 2012 carjacking of someone aligned with the West Coast Crips;

-- a member of the gang was fatally shot in front of a nightclub, allegedly because of his cooperation with law enforcement;

-- a woman who was a gang associate was killed after she criticized members for the nightclub murder; and

-- a pregnant woman who was a member of the gang was shot and wounded for criticizing the two previous homicides.

One suspect who remains at-large, Randy Alton Graves, is considered the lead defendant in the case.

The 50-year-old El Cajon man drives a baby blue Mercedes with paper plates, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Anyone with information on Graves is asked to call the FBI at (858) 320-1800.

Authorities said that during the sweep in which the defendants were arrested, they found handguns, sawed-off shotguns, rifles and ammunition. Duffy said the serial numbers and other identifying information on the firearms were removed.

She said the more than 500 officers who took part in the raids also discovered various types of drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars of counterfeit bills.

Besides the racketeering charges, the defendants face counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Several face life in prison, if convicted.

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