More than two dozen members of a violent Boyle Heights street gang with ties to the Mexican Mafia were arrested in an early Wednesday morning raid, federal prosecutors said.
Drugs, guns and other evidence of a sprawling criminal network were seized by about 800 officers from four different agencies who fanned out across the South LA area controlled by what investigators said is a brutal gang protected by the Mexican Mafia.
Thirty-eight gang members were indicted for racketeering, weapons and gun charges stemming from the operations of the Hazard gang that operated in the Ramona Gardens housing complex and the surrounding neighborhood.
Investigators said the gang has terrorized the neighborhood for decades with a series of murders, extortions and robberies.
"All of the gang’s operations operated under the umbrella of intimidation," Stephanie Yonekura, acting United States attorney, said after the arrests. She said the arrests were the culmination of a four-year joint operation by LAPD, FBI, ATF and IRS agents.
Yonekura said the gang had made it clear local residents were not allowed to cooperate with law enforcement officers, intimidating and extorting one family who had allowed the police to look inside their garage after a police chase.
Closely aligned with the Mexican Mafia, gang members threatened black residents and made it clear they were not welcome in the territory Hazard controls.
"Hazard members are governed by a set of unwritten but violently enforced rules," LAPD officer Lazaro I. Ortega in an affadavit that was unsealed as part of the indictment.
About 800 officers from task force agencies made the arrests in the pre-dawn hours Monday morning, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Because the gang paid "taxes" routinely to the Mexican Mafia, which provided it with protection for a drug business that extended well beyond its territory without fear of reprisals from rivals, the IRS was also involved.
"Calling yourself a taxing authority is going to get the attention of the Internal Revenue Service,” Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez said.
If convicted, each of the indicted gang members faces between 10 years in federal prison to life in prison without the possiblity of parole.