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Authorities go after 61 alleged drug suppliers in California

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • More than 800 agents participated in operation Thursday
  • Forty defendants are in custody
  • Authorities say 21 remain at large
  • They are accused of supplying meth and cocaine to street gangs

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- Federal authorities boasted that they practically dismantled an entire drug trafficking network in the Los Angeles area after a three-year, multi-agency investigation that resulted in dozens of arrests Thursday.

More than 800 federal and local agents took part in the massive take-down, which came after a federal grand jury returned six indictments that name a total of 61 defendants.

The targets of the operation, known as "Red Rein," were major methamphetamine and cocaine suppliers to street gangs based in Los Angeles, Long Beach and La Puente, the United States Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said.

Of the targets, five were already in prison and 35 were arrested Thursday. The remaining 21 defendants are still being sought, the U.S. Attorney''s office said.

In addition to the arrests, the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office filed a lawsuit to shut down drug trafficking activities at a "notorious" hotel used by a gang.

The defendants are accused of trafficking large quantities of cocaine and meth that were resold by various area gangs, the office said.

The 61 face charges including conspiracy to distribute meth and cocaine, and firearms violations.

Officers and agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and LAPD were part of the investigative effort.

"As a result of this investigation and enforcement action, we've dismantled an entire drug trafficking network, from the street dealer to the actual supplier," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for the ICE office of Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles.

"We believe these defendants were responsible for funneling large quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine into our communities. With today's arrests, we've shut down that potentially deadly supply chain and cut off what was a key source of cash for some of the most ruthless and violent gangs operating in this area."

The six indictments include defendants who are members of East Side Wilmas, North Side Wilmas, Harbor City Crips, Compton Avenue Crips, Fruit Town Piru, El Monte Flores and Primera Flats gangs, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

"This collaborative law enforcement action began as an investigation into drug trafficking in Wilmington (California) and expanded into a case that charges members of 10 different street gangs," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said. "A federal grand jury has charged key players involved in the distribution of crack cocaine in Wilmington, large-scale methamphetamine dealers in La Puente, and gun traffickers."

A majority of the defendants, 58 out of 61, face mandatory sentences of either 10 or 20 years in federal prison if convicted.