U.S. Attorney’s Office
April 12, 2012 Central District of California
Gang Impact Team Investigation Leads to Federal Charges Against 12 Inland Empire Men
LOS ANGELES—The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California today announced federal charges against 12 defendants for a variety of federal narcotics and firearms violations as part of an Inland Empire investigation known as Operation Squeeze Play. Ten of the 12 defendants are in custody this morning, and two defendants are currently being sought by authorities.
In 2011, an FBI Safe Streets Task Force known as the San Bernardino Gang Impact Team, which consists of members from the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); the San Bernardino Police Department; and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, initiated an investigation into the criminal activities of several San Bernardino based criminal street gangs. According to investigators, certain street gangs play a major role in the distribution of illegal narcotics in and around the city of San Bernardino, California. The members and associates of the these gangs are believed to actively sell narcotics to further the influence of the gang.
“The Department of Justice is committed to aggressively pursuing gang members and narcotics traffickers that threaten the safety of our local communities,” said United States Attorney André Birotte, Jr., whose office is handling the prosecution of the case. “The United States Attorney’s Office will continue working together with our partners at both the federal and local levels in order to take these dangerous offenders off our streets. When violent crime and narcotics trafficking are reduced, then all of our communities and neighborhoods benefit.”
A 42-page federal indictment based on the work of the Gang Impact Team was unveiled today, and it names seven defendants, all of whom are charged with conspiracy to distribute various illegal narcotics, including methamphetamine and crack cocaine. Three other defendants are named in a second criminal complaint, and two individuals are named in single-defendant criminal complaints. In total, Operation Squeeze Play has resulted in federal charges against 12 defendants.
“The activity alleged in the indictment outlines the vast reach of drug networks operating in and around the city of San Bernardino—activity that has perpetuated a gang culture among neighborhood youth and has fueled the spread of violence in the area,” said Steven M. Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Today’s arrests by the Gang Impact Team will have a strong impact on the gang’s influence and are a positive step toward restoring order to law-abiding citizens.”
“Among those arrested during this morning’s operation were gang members or associates identified based on persistent criminal activity that has plagued our streets for too long,” said Robert Handy, Chief of the San Bernardino Police Department. “Today’s operation demonstrates our commitment to the residents of San Bernardino who deserve to live without fear and to raise families in safe communities.”
The federal indictment alleges 23 counts, and all seven defendants named in that indictment are charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and/or marijuana. Some of the defendants listed in the indictment and the three complaints are additionally charged with distribution of methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, distribution of crack cocaine, possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and/or felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
If convicted, all seven defendants named in the indictment face potential maximum sentences of lifetime imprisonment and mandatory minimum sentences of at least five years of imprisonment. The five defendants charged by way of complaint potentially face maximum sentences of at least 40 years of imprisonment and mandatory minimum sentences of at least five years of imprisonment.
An indictment and a criminal complaint only contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.
The following agencies provided support during the investigation and today’s arrests: the FBI, DEA, ATF, San Bernardino Police Department, and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
The federal charges are being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office. Those persons taken into custody this morning will be arraigned on the indictment and/or the complaints this afternoon in United States District Court in Riverside.