H-SANTA MARIA

May 3, 2011 9:28 PM by Ariel Wesler

13 arrested in early morning gang crackdown

Thirteen suspected members of two of the Central Coast's largest gangs are in jail tonight after an early morning FBI crackdown.

Those suspects all face drug charges after a major gang sweep early this morning. Special agents from a multi-agency task force have been conducting a year long investigation into drug trafficking. A federal grand jury has charged ten of the accused gang members with distributing methamphetamine. The defendants are said to be from the "Six Deuce Brims Bloods" gang in Lompoc and the Northwest gang in Santa Maria. With more than 1100 members, law enforcement officers say it's the largest gang on the Central Coast.

It was a major operation for the FBI, working alongside local agencies to target some of the highest ranking members of our local street gangs.

"Gang members need to wake up, wise up, or face these stiff consequences," said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. with the Department of Justice.

125 agents and law enforcement officers from the Central Coast's Safe Streets Task force say they safely arrested 13 gang members. The ultimate goal?

"Dismantle gangs from the top to the bottom, from the street soldiers to the shot callers and to put their drug dealing associates out of business as well," Birotte Jr. said.

Four suspected gang members were arrested on state firearms and narcotics violations and will be prosecuted in Santa Barbara County.

Nine more were arrested on federal drug charges and range in age from 23-51. The majority are from Santa Maria. Two others are from Oceano and Arroyo Grande.

"We don't allow jurisdictional boundaries to hamper our efforts to keep neighborhoods free of fear," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown.

Law enforcement agencies say when they work together, it makes all of our communities safer.

"Bad guys are going to go to jail. It's going to be a safer place to live," said Santa Maria Police Chief Danny Macagni.

They say this is not the first gang sweep on the Central Coast, nor will it be the last.

"We all know that our resources are diminishing, but what is not diminishing in Santa Barbara County is the idea that we will provide public safety. We will ensure justice," said Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley.

Agents say they are still pursuing one other gang member as part of this operation. This was a joint investigation between the FBI, Santa Maria Police Department, and the Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Departments.

The FBI says half of the defendants named in the grand jury indictments face life in prison. All 10 face at least 5 years in federal prison if convicted.

Agents would not release photos of the federal defendants due to privacy issues. They are expected to appear in federal court in Los Angeles later this week.

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