WASHINGTON--A division of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency today announced the arrests of 678 alleged gang members and drug trafficking associates from 133 different gangs and coming from 24 different countries including Mexico, and 168 U.S. cities in a sweep dubbed Project Southern Tempest.
"Project Southern Tempest is the largest ever ICE-led gang enforcement operation targeting gangs with ties to drug trafficking organizations," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton in a prepared statement.
"Through gang enforcement operations like Project Southern Tempest and Project Big Freeze last year, ICE will continue to disrupt and dismantle these transnational gangs and rid our streets not only of drug dealers, but the violence associated with the drug trade," he said.
According to a statement from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, Project Southern Tempest, led by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations, has worked with 173 federal, state and local law enforcement partners to apprehend individuals from 13 gangs affiliated with drug trafficking in Mexico.
More than 46 percent of those arrested during this operation were members or associates of gangs with ties to drug trafficking organizations.
Those arrested came from 24 countries in South and Central America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
Of the total number of arrested, 776 were males and 72 were females.
Transnational criminal street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-national members and are frequently involved in human smuggling and trafficking; narcotics smuggling and distribution; identity theft and benefit fraud; money laundering and bulk cash smuggling; weapons smuggling and arms trafficking; cyber crimes; export violations; and other crimes with a nexus to the border.
Of the 678 gang members or associates arrested:
they hailed from 133 different gangs;
447 were charged with criminal offenses;
231 were administrative arrests;
322 had violent criminal histories;
421 were foreign nationals.
In addition to the 678 arrests, 164 individuals were arrested for federal or state criminal violations, or administrative immigration violations.
Of the 164, 117 were charged with criminal offenses, 46 had violent criminal histories, 47 were administrative arrests and 78 were foreign nationals.
In addition to the arrests, during the operation agents seized 86 firearms, eight pounds of methamphetamine, 30 pounds of marijuana, one pound of cocaine, more than $70,000 in U.S currency and two vehicles.
Among those arrested during Project Southern Tempest were:
• Andrey Melnikov, 36, a Russian national with legal permanent residence status and an associate of the Valleros gang was arrested in Oceanside, Calif., for auto theft. His criminal convictions include possession of weapon on school grounds/carrying loaded firearm in a public place and felon in possession of a firearm.
• Cesar Enrique Barreiro, 27, a U.S. citizen and member of the Lennox 13 gang was arrested in Lennox, Calif., for RICO charges from an ongoing multi-agency investigation. His criminal convictions include aggravated assault with serious bodily injury. He faces federal criminal prosecution on racketeering charges.
• Shawn Allison, 32, a Jamaican national and member of the Jamaican Posse gang was arrested in Bronx, N.Y., for attempted murder. His convictions include possession with intent to distribute and criminal contempt. He faces state criminal prosecution on charges of attempted murder.
• Rodimiro Burquez-Cortez, 34, a Mexican national and Surenos gang associate was arrested in Provo, Utah, for re-entry after deportation and narcotics and weapon offenses. His criminal convictions include illegal re-entry; carrying a concealed weapon, assault, DWI, illegal possession of controlled substance, possession of dangerous weapon. He faces federal criminal prosecution for re-entry of previously removed alien, illegal alien in possession of a firearm, and felon in possession of a firearm.
• Gustavo Morales, 52, a Mexican national and an associate of the Boomerangz gang was arrested in Reading, Pa., for federal offenses related to narcotics and weapons violations. His criminal history has a conviction for re-entry. He faces federal prosecution for illegal re-entry and narcotics and weapon offenses.
This enforcement operation is part of Operation Community Shield, a global initiative, in which ICE HSI partners with existing federal, state, local and foreign anti-gang efforts to share intelligence on criminal gang organizations and their leadership, share resources and combine legal authorities to identify, locate, arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members.