Local and federal prosecutors will have to evaluate cases against dozens of suspects arrested in connection with raids on Wednesday in Merced County targeting “violent and high-ranking gang members associated (with) the Sureno criminal street gangs in Merced County,” according to a federal criminal complaint.
Hundreds of investigators raided dozens of Merced County homes seizing guns, drugs, and cash. More than 50 people were arrested in connection with the massive gang sweep, officials said.
The case was the result of months of investigation coordinated between numerous local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Wednesday’s sweeps were a follow up to a nearly identical take down two years ago of Norteno street gangs in Merced County, dubbed “Operation Red Right Hand.”
More than 70 people were arrested in the May 2015 case, many of them considered to be leaders and mid-level players in the community’s black-market drug trade. According to a federal complaint filed in connection with the raids on Wednesday, Sureno gang members stepped up their activities after many of the Nortenos landed behind bars.
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Wednesday’s raids, named “Operation Scrapbook,” sought to take out the Sureno gang members operating in connection with the Mexican Mafia who allegedly stepped in to fill the void after the Norteno take down.
Authorities described Wednesday’s raids as a massive success.
So what’s next for the dozens of cases stemming from the lengthy investigation?
Several of those arrested Wednesday already have been charged and are on their way to criminal prosecution in court. Nearly a dozen suspects have been charged with federal crimes, according to U.S. District court records.
They are expected to appear in court today in Fresno before Judge Stanley A. Boone to obtain defense attorneys. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will request a detention hearing to determine whether the defendants should remain in custody or be released pending trial, according to Deb Duckett-Morris, secretary to U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert.
Duckett-Morris told the Sun-Star prosecutor will request the detention hearing be scheduled between today and Tuesday.
The criminal complaint unsealed this week in U.S. District Court names 11 men as defendants in the months-long investigation. Two of the defendants, 22-year-old Robert “Bubba” Guthrie and 28-year-old Andres Corona Prado have been charged with gun and drug trafficking, conspiracy, unlawfully possessing guns, and more, according to the complaint.
Undercover operations conducted stings beginning in January, purchasing firearms and narcotics on numerous occasions over several months, the complaint says.
This is a developing story. Check back with the Sun-Star for updates today.