LOS ANGELES (AP) – More than 120 people linked to street gangs that claim allegiance to the Mexican Mafia have been indicted on various racketeering, weapons and narcotics charges as authorities attempt to cripple the notorious prison gang’s Orange County wing.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers fanned out across Southern California on Tuesday, making arrests as part of “Operation Smokin’ Aces.” A total of 129 people have been indicted by county and federal grand juries alleging crimes including murder, drug trafficking and extortion.
The Mexican Mafia sought and received payments from gangs in Orange County in exchange for freely committing crimes in primarily Latino neighborhoods, according to court documents. Those who refused were put on lists that often resulted in violent retribution.
The Mexican Mafia has long been suspected by law enforcement of controlling drug distribution and other illegal activities within California jails and prisons as well as on the street. By extorting gangs via “taxes,” the Mexican Mafia receives a portion of the proceeds while also offering gangs protection or assistance if needed.
Authorities said they seized 22 pounds (10 kilograms) of methamphetamine, 1 1/2 pounds (700 grams) of heroin, 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms) of cocaine and made 67 undercover weapon purchases as part of the investigation.
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