Nuestra Familia prison gang bust nets 41 arrests

Officials say this investigation started six months ago and came together with dramatic results. (KFSN)
May 8, 2014 7:17:53 AM PDT
Hundreds of federal, state, and local officers hit several homes across Merced County -- targeting those with ties to the Nuestra Familia prison gang. They're calling the crackdown "Operation Red Eye."

Authorities held a news conference here at the Atwater Community Center, which also served as the command post during this massive operation.

Officials say this investigation started six months ago and came together with dramatic results.

Officers from 18 different agencies gathered in Atwater -- after arresting 41 suspects across Merced County. They interviewed each person before taking most of them off to jail.

"We want to emphasize that those taken down today were bigger fish than those sometimes netted in these operations," said Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse. "Many were pivotal members of Norteños criminal street gangs, some operating in cooperation with Nuestra Familia prison direction."

More than 200 officers served warrants at about 30 locations, including a home on Langtry Avenue in Atwater. Along with arrests, they seized eleven vehicles, 17 guns, $83,000.00 in cash plus ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana.

State Justice Department Investigations Bureau Chief Kent Shaw said, "These criminal organizations are collaborating together in terms of how they're committing their crimes, and it's essential we do the same in order to effectively deal with this issue, very violent and dangerous groups."

Officials say the Nuestra Familia gang is based within the California prison system and has control over street level gang members blamed for drug trafficking and violent crime across the Valley. That's why authorities believe local families will be safer as a result of this large scale takedown.

Merced police Chief Norm Andrade said, "You have to remember these folks with that criminal mindset also upset the n'hoods in the sense that they create other things, the burglaries, the robberies, the domestic violence, all those types of things that tend to go not so noticed in a case like this."

This operation also included arrests in other states, including Arkansas. The U.S. Attorney's office will prosecute seven of the suspects in federal court.

The others are in the Merced County jail right now and will be prosecuted by the district attorney's office. The defendants are now facing a variety of drug, weapons, and gang charges.

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