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Sweep targets street gang led from California prison

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Authorities arrested Wednesday 31 people who they said are connected to a violent drug-running multi-state street gang led from one of California’s most notorious prisons.

The huge swing with more than 750 law enforcement of federal, state and local officials netted 29 suspects on drug and weapons costs about 10 provinces of Northern California.

The two others were arrested in Pittsburgh and Medford, Oregon.

The operation was led by two inmate members of the Northern Structure prison gang used smuggled cell phones to communicate from inside Pelican Bay State Prison, federal and state officials said.

The inmates focused on a subset of the Norteno street gang that grew in a Forest, west of Sacramento, in the past few years. Both are affiliated with the Nuestra Familia gang.

Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig called it “a violent criminal street gang that plagued much of the region, and to be honest, reached across the nation.”

“Weapons, drugs and violence are the trademarks of this band, and the members of this gang have used guns and weapons to attack and kill the enemies, and even to kill innocent civilians,” he said.

Two members of the Varrio Bosque Norteno gang were recently sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing 41-year-old Ronald Antonio in 2016, when they mistook him for a rival gang as they rampaged through a Forest mobile home park, he said. They were convicted separately of Wednesday’s crackdown, in which suspects were accused of trafficking mostly in methamphetamine and heroin, and illegal possession of weapons, as ex-criminals.

Many of those charged with selling drugs and weapons with the help of social media sites, said the Prosecutor of the V. S. McGregor Scott.

Pelican Bay prisoners Patrick Botello, 31, and Ricardo Villa, 39, are charged with drug trafficking and the use of a mobile phone to direct drug trafficking in and out of the prison.

Thirty-four weapons were seized Wednesday, along with $71,500 in cash and a few hundred pounds of marijuana. Scott said authorities confiscated a lab used to make butane honey oil from marijuana, a dangerous surgery that often leads to an explosion.

No one was injured as law enforcement officials served 69 search, parole and probation warrants, supported by aircraft, and the FBI hostage rescue team.

Eighteen of them were arrested Wednesday, including the two prisoners, were called in newly unsealed federal indictments. Eleven others were swept up on various charges Wednesday during the raids, and it is unclear where they will be prosecuted, Scott said.

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