SAN PEDRO, Calif. (FOX 11) - More than a dozen suspected members and associates of a San Pedro-based street gang have been charged with federal narcotics and firearms offenses, grand jury indictments unsealed Wednesday show.
The two federal indictments, charging a total of 14 defendants in Los Angeles federal court, outlines a narcotics trafficking conspiracy in which gang members and their associates allegedly distributed methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and opioids, while using violence and firearms to maintain their territory.
The drugs -- including up to one-pound quantities of methamphetamine --were often sold out of a hotel and two bars on Pacific Avenue in San Pedro, prosecutors said.
Four of the defendants under federal indictment were arrested Wednesday, while seven others were already in state custody, prosecutors said.
The three remaining federal defendants are fugitives. Another 10 members and associates of the gang were arrested Wednesday on state charges.
The narcotics trafficking indictment alleges that the gang operates under the control of the Mexican Mafia and often engaged in violence and intimidation in an effort to protect its territory. The gang collected "taxes" from drug transactions, and the money was funneled to three Mexican Mafia members who are currently serving lengthy sentences in state prisons for murder convictions, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors allege that the lead defendant in the drug trafficking indictment -- 32-year-old Robert "Stretch" Messersmith -- oversaw the day-to-day operations of the gang and communicated with the incarcerated Mexican Mafia members about gang business. Messersmith also directly participated in
narcotics transactions, according to the indictment.
The indictment specifically accuses the defendants of participating in a series of narcotics transactions in 2017 and 2018, including a half-dozen sales involving one to two ounces of methamphetamine. The indictment also alleges several sales involving from one-half pound to one pound of methamphetamine.
Communications intercepted by law enforcement during the investigation link certain members of the gang to murders, attacks on rival gang members and the disciplining of fellow gang members, one of whom bragged on social media about engaging in gang-related violence, prosecutors allege.
During the investigation into the gang, law enforcement seized about 45 firearms, including semi-automatic rifles and handguns.
The narcotics trafficking indictment contains 26 felony counts. All 13 defendants are charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances. Various defendants are charged with substantive narcotics- trafficking offenses, and three defendants are charged with being felons in
possession of firearms. If convicted in the narcotics-trafficking conspiracy all 13 defendants would face potential life sentences in federal prison.
The second federal indictment charges suspected gang shot-caller Alexander Gallardo, 31, with possessing ammunition after being convicted of a domestic violence offense, a charge that carries a possible maximum of 10 years in federal prison. The four defendants taken into federal custody were expected to be arraigned before a federal judge in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon.
The two federal indictments and the local cases against members and associates of the gang are the result of an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives provided ``substantial'' support during the investigation, federal officials said.
CNS contributed to this report.