“The Special Operations Unit in the California Department of Justice has proven to be a might force in the fight against violent crime and criminal street gangs that have terrorized our communities for far too long. These special agents and officers are committed to keeping us safe, conduct lengthy investigations that put them in dangerous situations and they deserve our appreciation.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
SAN BERNARDINO – On December 9, 2021, the results of a joint investigation by state and local law enforcement special agents and officers into the Westside Verdugo criminal street gang were announced, including:
- 180 felony arrests,
- the closure of 30 illegal gambling establishments,
- the seizure of 92 handguns, 19 assault weapons,
- the seizure of $295,870 in U.S. currency,
- the seizure of hundreds of pounds of illicit drugs.
In June, the San Bernardino Police Department requested assistance with its investigation of the gang’s violent criminal activity from the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Special Operations Unit (SOU).
On December 8, 2021, the investigation culminated in a largescale operation with agents:
- executing 34 search warrants,
- arresting 31 suspects,
- and seizing 11 firearms at multiple sites
in San Bernardino County.
“Members and associates of this gang have committed violent crimes in San Bernardino with no regard for the people in the community who are directly or indirectly harmed,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “This investigation and yesterday’s arrests and seizures have removed dangerous individuals from our streets and firearms from the hands of those who would choose to commit violent crimes. The results of this investigation could also assist law enforcement in solving other cases in the area. The partnership between our agents and local law enforcement made this possible, and I’m thankful to every person involved in this successful investigation.”
Westside Verdugo has an extensive criminal history in the San Bernardino area. The gang is suspected of multiple violent crimes including assault, attempted murder, and murder.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, over the course of the investigation, numerous violent crimes were prevented, including shootings and armed robberies. Evidence collected during the investigation also assisted in solving two homicides. In the course of shutting down illegal gambling operations, agents seized more than 100 illegal gambling machines and devices. These establishments were operated by members and associates of Westside Verdugo and brought in tens of thousands of dollars a week for the gang. In 2021, five homicides, four attempted murders, and multiple other crimes were linked to these sites.
DOJ’s SOU is an investigative effort between DOJ and the California Highway Patrol. The unit provides statewide enforcement for combating violent career criminals, gangs, and organized crime groups, along with intrastate drug traffickers. These unique and essential teams use the latest technology and advanced investigative techniques and work alongside local law enforcement to enhance investigations into violent criminals and organized crime throughout the state.