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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Big Gang Roundup in L.A.

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Twenty-five people were arrested Wednesday in a raid on a street gang that has intimidated residents of a public housing project in Boyle Heights for 50 years, federal prosecutors said.

Officers arrested 25 members of the Hazard gang on racketeering and drug charges, prosecutors said. Five people evaded capture, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

One of the defendants was killed over the weekend. The Los Angeles Police Department said it could not comment on the ongoing investigation.

The federal indictment led to a sting dubbed "Operation Resident Evil" that involved 800 agents and officers.

Prosecutors on Wednesday unsealed a 110-page complaint detailing of the gang's alleged activities over the past seven years.

The indictment accuses the gang of racketeering, illegal gun sales, and trafficking methamphetamine, PCP, cocaine, crack and heroin.

The gang terrorized black residents in the Ramona Gardens public housing development community where it is entrenched, creating tags that read "no blacks," prosecutors said.

"All of the gang's operations were done under the umbrella of intimidation - making threats and then committing acts of violence against rival gangsters, law-abiding members of the community and Hazard gang members who might be cooperating with authorities," Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura said.

"The intimidation and threats extended to African-American residents of Ramona Gardens. In stark and simple messages delivered in person and through graffiti, the Hazard gang made it clear that black residents were not welcome in the neighborhood that it claimed to control."

The Hazard gang placed cameras at stash houses and diverted police officers to other areas of the neighborhood by making fake complaints to the police, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Prosecutors said many members of the 350-strong gang are from the prison gang known as the Mexican Mafia.

The biggest catch may be Manuel Larry Jackson, 29, aka "Cricket," whom prosecutors say heads the Hazard gang.

Yonekura said the investigation began after officers searched the car of gang member Mark Johnson, who had been involved in a "drug deal gone bad," leading to "shots fired" and a crash on Interstate 10.

"When the officers searched the car, they found letters from Manuel Jackson from ADX Florence [supermax prison], where he was at the time," Yonekura said. "Manuel Jackson was supposed to be released in June of 2011, and the police and the law enforcement agencies behind us were concerned that once he hit the streets again he would attempt to expand his power base."

Yonekura said the investigation included wiretaps. The gang made millions of dollars "taxing" drug dealers who sell narcotics in its territory, prosecutors said.

"Calling yourself a 'taxing' authority is going to get the attention of the Internal Revenue Service," IRS Criminal Investigation Agent Erick Martinez said at a morning press conference at the Federal Building in downtown L.A.

"If the gang reconstitutes itself, we'll reconstitute a task force and go at it again," LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said. "We're not going to sit back and watch it come up again."

Albanese said that the LAPD will work to evict gang members in the public housing project with the help of housing authorities.

He said the investigation of the death of the defendant killed last weekend was ongoing and "sensitive."

Albanese said that the street gang was responsible for a "lot of death and carnage over the years."

The defendants were charged with RICO violations and drug trafficking conspiracy.

If convicted, they face a minimum 10 years in federal prison on each charge. The maximum statutory penalty is life without parole.

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