MERCED – A five month long investigation into violent gang activity in the Merced area has resulted in
- the arrest of 75 criminal suspects,
- the seizure of $85,000 in cash,
- 11 firearms,
- four pounds of methamphetamine,
- three pounds of cocaine,
- one pound of heroin,
- 50 pounds of marijuana,
- 1,500 pseudoephedrine pills
- and 5,000 pirated DVDs.
Translated, this was the takedown of violent individuals from the Merced County Nortenos street gang who wreaked havoc in the community.
“This operation captured dangerous criminals that are suspected of committing homicides throughout the Central Valley,” Attorney General Kamala Harris said. “We will continue to dismantle violent street and prison gang networks by cutting off their flow of money, recruits and communications. I want to thank our DOJ agents and local law enforcement partners for their work on the front lines of this fight every day.”
"There is no question in my mind about the danger California Department of Justice special agents and the law enforcement officers who worked side by side with them in this five month long investigation faced as they investigated and arrested these 75 suspects," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. "This investigation was conducted by the California Department of Justice Special Operations Unit or SOU, teamed with CHP and local law enforcement officers. Last summer, CSLEA fought the difficult fight in getting $9.4 million dollars for two and a half SOUs in the State budget. It is paying off the way in which we knew that it would, helping to rid communities of violent criminals who terrorize law abiding individuals and families. Just two months ago, a five-month investigation in which DOJ special agents in Special Operation Units teamed up with CHP and Oakland police officers resulted in the takedown of an Oakland area street gang. Sixteen suspects were arrested and 36 weapons seized. Clearly it's working."
In addition to DOJ special agents and CHP officers, the Merced area investigation, dubbed Operation Red Right Hand, included the Merced Police Department, Merced County Sheriff’s Department, Merced County District Attorney's Office, Merced Multi-Agency Narcotic Task Force (a Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking team), Atwater Police Department, Los Banos Police Department, Merced County Probation Department, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Parole Division.
Operation Red Right Hand began after a series of gang related homicides in Merced County that started in 2013. The multi-agency investigation aimed to identify Nortenos gang members and associates most likely to participate in or carry out violent crime, dismantle the sources of income for the gang, remove known recruiters within the organization and disrupt communications.
The investigation found that the Nortenos had authorized a war against the Crip criminal street gangs in Merced. In addition, investigators learned that Nuestra Familia, a California prison gang, had instructed the local Nortenos gang to kill and assault members who decided to drop out of the organization.
The suspects are charged with homicide, attempted homicide, accessory to murder or attempted murder, conspiracy to commit assault with a deadly weapon and assault likely to produce great bodily injury, weapons possession, and sales of narcotics or counterfeit items.