LOS ANGELES – Authorities have arrested 17 members and associates of the Wilmas street gang who are named in a federal racketeering indictment that alleges acts of murder, attempted murder, narcotics trafficking, robbery and witness intimidation – as well as a series of armed attacks on law enforcement officers dating back to 2008.
The 17 people arrested this morning and late Tuesday are among 29 defendants named in a 111-page indictment that alleges violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The arrests were made by officers with the Los Angeles Police Department, special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement authorities, including the United States Marshals Service and the FBI.
In addition to those arrested during the Operation “Tidal Wave,” 10 defendants were already in custody on unrelated charges. Authorities are continuing to search for two defendants.
During the course of the investigation, law enforcement seized nearly eight pounds of methamphetamine and 10 firearms, including one linked to a shooting.
“This federal indictment seeks to dismantle the leadership of the Wilmas street gang, a particularly violent street gang that regularly targets members of the community and law enforcement officers for murder,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “The devastating impact that this gang has had on the community cannot be overstated, but today's takedown will help to restore order across Wilmington and ensure that those responsible for the violence and other criminal acts will be taken off the streets for years.”
Operation Tidal Wave targeted the Wilmas gang, which has operated in the Wilmington District of Los Angeles since the 1950s and is affiliated with the Mexican Mafia. As a “surenos” gang, the Wilmas gang “is loyal to, supports and contributes to the Mexican Mafia,” according to the indictment, which outlines how leaders of the prison gang issues orders to kill rival gang members and members of law enforcement.
The federal indictment unsealed this morning outlines a criminal enterprise that controls the drug trade in Wilmington, collects “taxes” from drug dealers for the benefit of Mexican Mafia members, maintains a supply of often-illegal firearms, and takes retribution against people who may be cooperating with law enforcement. Wilmas gang members murdered two 16-year-old victims on February 26, 2012, according to the indictment.
“The Wilmas gang is also a racist organization and has been historically antagonistic to the presence of African-Americans in Wilmas gang territory,” the indictment alleges. “Wilmas gang members have frequently targeted African-Americans who enter or attempt to reside within the area claimed by the Wilmas gang.”
Operation Tidal Wave was conducted under the auspices of the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, which is coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“This joint investigation targeted a very violent and ruthless criminal gang that has terrorized the citizens of Wilmington for too long,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Steve Comer. “The HIDTA Task Force is dedicated to dismantling the most prolific, local area drug trafficking organizations and today's actions demonstrate that commitment – we're allied with our law enforcement partners to make our communities safer.”
The 31-count indictment alleges a conspiracy to violate RICO; numerous criminal offenses that violated the RICO statute, including murder, distribution of methamphetamine, extortion, and witness tampering; violent crimes in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to trafficking narcotics, possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and one defendant is accused of being a felon in possession of a shotgun.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
Most of the 29 defendants named in the indictment face potential life sentences if they are convicted, and most potentially face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years in federal prison.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Brunwin of the Violent and Organized Crime Section.
RICO Case Names 29 Defendants Allegedly Affiliated with Wilmas Gang, a Violent and Racist Enterprise Linked to Murders, Assaults and Drug Trafficking
USAO – California, Central Updated November 10, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-278 / November 9, 2016