80 Gang Members Arrested In Texas Sweep

More than 80 people arrested during 5-month investigation into gangs in Tulare County. (Photo: Eric Woomer)

A Department of Justice-led, multi-agency, multi-county effort to dismantle Nortenos in Tulare County culminated Thursday morning with the arrest of 52 men and women from towns across the county. The District Attorney's Office is calling the sweep the largest gang case ever prosecuted in this county.

U.S. immigration officials say 80 street gang members have been arrested in a five-day sweep through Houston, Beaumont and Corpus Christi.

Federal, state and local officers made the arrests as part of a national initiative targeting transnational gangs, officials said Tuesday.

The sweep also nabbed 36 immigration status violators.

Officials say the suspects have ties to at least 14 groups, including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Surenos Trece, Aryan Brotherhood, Latin Kings, La Raza13, Black Disciples, Houstone, Tango Blast, Bloods and Crips.

Sixty face criminal charges and 13 re-entered the country illegally after being deported.

The remaining 43 were arrested on immigration violations and are in custody until a deportation hearing.

Detectives, officers and deputies from agencies including Visalia, Tulare County Sheriff's Department, Kings, Kern and Madera counties as well as the state's DOJ and CHP pounded on 60 doors and backed SWAT vehicle into yards of suspected Norteno masterminds.

The operation, dubbed Red Sol by the DOJ, has been in the planning for more than five months. In the months leading up to kick off of October, 38 people were arrested. Law enforcement added 52 arrests to those earlier numbers, along with half a dozen guns and drugs. They seized $34,000 in cash.

Several children were also handed over to Child Welfare Services.

The biggest bust, law enforcement said, was the arrest of Pedro "Pistol Pete" Sanchez, who was identified as the local Norteno gang leader. He ran the day-to-day operations of the gang. The Norteno street gangs of the Central Valley are linked to Nuestra Familia, a criminal gang run out of Pelican Bay State Prison.

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