San Diego law enforcement filed charges against 19 associates of a Mexican gang known as “Eme,” or “La Eme,” and arrested 10 of them Thursday.
Most of the associates arrested were active gang members and had prior criminal history, according to the San Diego District County Attorney’s Office.
Law enforcement also seized $51,000 in cash, methamphetamine, and heroin.
A three-year investigation called “Operation Emero,” conducted by San Diego, state and federal law enforcement agencies provided the information needed to file the charges and make the arrests, according to a statement from District Attorney Summer Stephan.
Investigators analyzed thousands of recorded conversations and written communication dealing with La Eme’s operations and criminal activity. They discovered that incarcerated Mexican mafia members were using prison phones, email, mail and cell phones to order murders, assaults, extortions, drug trafficking and collect money for the incarcerated gang members, according to the DA.
"This gang is extremely gruesome and calculated in their violence to inspire fear and intimidation," Stephan said in a statement.
Two principle gang leaders were revealed to be Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate Jose "Bat" Marquez and California death row inmate Ronaldo Ayala.
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The DA stated joint efforts with the FBI, East San Diego Regional Gang Task Force and San Diego Special Services Unit allowed law enforcement to bring 25 felony charges against the 19 mafia associates.
Some of the charges filed against the gang associates include conspiracy to commit torture, conspiracy to commit assault of great bodily injury, conspiracy to commit arson, extortion, possession of drugs for sale and possession of an assault weapon, according to the DA.
"I am proud to continue this tradition of partnership, which allows us to conduct complicated and effective investigations such as Operation Emero, which makes the entire county safer," said Sheriff Bill Gore, head of the East County Regional Gang Task Force.
Within the prison system, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) Security Threat Group searched 39 prison cells and confiscated 23 contraband cell phones, two subscriber identification module (SIM) cards, methamphetamine, narcotics and documents detailing Mexican mafia activities.
"I commend our agents in CDCR’s San Diego Special Service Unit and thank our partners on the FBI Safe Streets Task Force," said CDCR Special Agent in Charge John Prelip in a statement. "…The Service Unit will continue to work together and liason with law enforcement teams to dismantle the operations of criminal gangs."
The 10 gang associates arrested Thursday are scheduled for arraignment on July 24.