LOS ANGELES (FOX 11 / CNS) - More than 30 suspected gang members or associates were arrested Wednesday in a major law enforcement sweep that targeted the Mexican Mafia and its alleged control of drug smuggling, narcotics sales and the extortion of prisoners inside the Los Angeles County jail system.
More than 500 personnel from various law enforcement agencies executed the takedown, taking into custody 32 defendants charged in two federal racketeering indictments that name 83 defendants, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
A total of 35 defendants are already in custody in state prison or county jail facilities and authorities continue to search for 16 fugitive, federal prosecutors said.
Law enforcement personnel scheduled a news conference this afternoon to discuss the case.
The indictments -- which allege a host of criminal violations, including conspiracies to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act -- detail the power structure of the Mexican Mafia and its exercise of authority over Latino street gangs in Southern California and inside the sprawling jail system.
According to the indictment that focuses on the jails, a criminal enterprise led by members of the Mexican Mafia engaged in five broad areas of criminal activities that collectively served to enrich members of the enterprise and to maintain control and authority over the Men's Central Jail and the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles.
The offenses allegedly carried out by the enterprise include the Mexican Mafia-sanctioned smuggling of drugs into the jails where they were sold to inmates; inmate extortion; assaults of gang associates who ran afoul of the rules imposed by the organization; and money laundering.
"These cases have delivered a major blow to the Mexican Mafia and leaders of many of the street gangs under the control of the organization,'' said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. "By taking out the gang members who control the jails, and by disrupting their communications network, we undermined the
Mexican Mafia's ability to coordinate street gang activity.''
The three-year investigation "focused on players at all levels for their roles in the conspiracy -- from the shot-caller, to the secretary, to the dealer, to the smuggler,'' said Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office.