FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- "Because of the wiretap work that was done and the information that was gathered, we were able to link evidence to crimes, murders that MS 13 had committed in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston, New York."
The MS-13 gang is a complex criminal organization whose reach spans across the nation. The central planning hub was based out of Mendota. But the gang didn't just target other gang members; agents say they instilled great fear in the small, mostly farmworker, town.
"This was a violent, brutal, horrific set of people who were terrorizing people who just want to live their lives, go to work every day raise their families," said U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of California, McGregor Scott.
Tuesday a special operations unit out of the Fresno Department of Justice office was awarded for the hours, days and months they spent dedicated to ending the violence.
Many of the law enforcement officers worked overtime doing research, writing warrants and listening to tapped phone lines and text message conversations -- then documenting it all.
"These investigators work day in and day out. They operate in the shadows; you never know when they are there. You'll never see them and that's the way it's designed to be done," said Luis Lipez with the Department of Justice.
The state attorney general also made the trip to the Central Valley to acknowledge the collaboration of agents from the FBI, DEA, HSI, and local law enforcement agencies. The magnitude of the problem warranted the various agencies sharing information to build strong cases.
"We are fortunate to have a great partnership, and the result of that partnership is real fruit for the people of California and certainly the Central Valley," said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
The result of last years operation was the arrests of dozens of MS-13 gang members. Many were prosecuted federally and will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Local law enforcement help federal agencies dismantle MS-13 gang in Mendota