ICE agents and other law enforcement officers arrested 678 gang members and associates during "Project Southern Tempest." Photo courtesy of ICE.
During a massive sweep aimed at gang members and their associates on Tuesday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 678 members from 133 different gangs, the agency announced.
The operation, led by the agency's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and known as Project Southern Tempest, was carried out in 168 U.S. cities and targeted gangs affiliated with Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTO).
Through Project Southern Tempest, ICE HSI agents and 173 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers apprehended individuals from 13 gangs affiliated with DTOs in Mexico. More than 46 percent of those arrested during this operation were members or associates of gangs with ties to DTOs.
"By pooling our resources and our intelligence, we've succeeded in taking some very dangerous people off of the streets," according to South Salt Lake (Utah) Police Chief Chris Snyder. "Our goal in partnering with ICE and other law enforcement agencies is to make our cities safer. The gang members and drug dealers targeted in this operation have no regard for the law and their continued illegal activities degrade the quality of life in our communities."
During this operation, which began in December, the ICE HSI-led Salt Lake City Operation Community Shield Task Force arrested the 20,000th gang member since inception of the anti-gang program in 2005.
Transnational criminal street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-national members and are frequently involved in human smuggling and trafficking; narcotics smuggling and distribution; identity theft and benefit fraud; money laundering and bulk cash smuggling; weapons smuggling and arms trafficking; cyber crimes; export violations; and other border-related crimes.
Of the arrested 678 gang members or associates, 133 were from different gangs; 447 were charged with criminal offenses; 231 were administrative arrests; 322 had violent criminal histories; and 421 were foreign nationals.
In addition to the 678 arrests, 164 individuals were arrested for federal and/or state criminal violations, or administrative immigration violations. Of the 164, 117 were charged with criminal offenses, 46 had violent criminal histories, 47 were administrative arrests, and 78 were foreign nationals. In addition to the arrests, during the operation agents seized 86 firearms, eight pounds of methamphetamine, 30 pounds of marijuana, one pound of cocaine, more than $70,000 in U.S currency, and two vehicles.
Like any street gang, these transnational gangs also have a propensity toward violence. Their members committed a number of violent crimes including robbery, extortion, assault, rape, and murder.
Among those arrested during Project Southern Tempest were:
- Andrey Melnikov, 36, a Russian national with legal permanent residence status and an associate of the Valleros gang, was arrested in Oceanside, Calif., for auto theft. His criminal convictions include possession of weapon on school grounds/carrying loaded firearm public place and felon in possession of a firearm.
- Cesar Enrique Barreiro, 27, a U.S. citizen and member of the Lennox 13 gang, was arrested in Lennox, Calif., for RICO charges from an ongoing multi-agency investigation. His criminal convictions include for aggravated assault with serious bodily injury. He faces federal criminal prosecution on racketeering charges.
- Shawn Allison, 32, a Jamaican national and member of the Jamaican Posse gang, was arrested in Bronx, N.Y., for attempted murder. His convictions include possession with intent to distribute and criminal contempt. He faces state criminal prosecution on charges of attempted murder.
- Rodimiro Burquez-Cortez, 34, a Mexican national and Surenos gang associate, was arrested in Provo, Utah, for re-entry after deportation and narcotics and weapon offenses. His criminal convictions include illegal re-entry; carrying a concealed weapon, assault, DWI, illegal possession of controlled substance, possession of dangerous weapon. He faces federal criminal prosecution for re-entry of previously removed alien, illegal alien in possession of a firearm, and felon in possession of a firearm.
- Gustavo Morales, 52, a Mexican national and an associate of the Boomerangz gang, was arrested in Reading, Pa., for federal offenses related to narcotics and weapons violations. His criminal history has a conviction for re-entry. He faces federal prosecution for illegal re-entry and narcotics and weapon offenses.
Those arrested came from 24 countries in South and Central America, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. Of the total number arrested, 776 were males and 72 were females.