SAN DIEGO -- A crackdown on violent street gangs in San Diego County over the last three months resulted in federal charges against more than 140 gang members and associates, many of whom are accused of terrorizing neighborhoods with shootings, robberies and other crimes, authorities said Wednesday.
"This is an unusually large number of gang members arrested in a very short period of time," said Acting U.S. Attorney Alana W. Robinson.
"The sheer number of arrests illustrates that gangs are a significant problem in this county," she said. "But it also underscores our enormous commitment to use every tool we have to attack this problem and restore communities to families who should not have to live in fear in their own homes."
More than 60 firearms and 30 pounds of methamphetamine, plus cash and other illicit drugs, were seized by law enforcement during four long-term gang investigations that culminated this spring with various indictments charging crimes such as racketeering, money laundering and gun, drug or sex trafficking.
The most recent charges, unsealed this week in federal court, involve the prosecution of 16 members and associates of the Escondido-based Diablos street gang. The defendants are facing various drug trafficking offenses.
In the last year, the Diablos gang has been responsible for more than 25 gang-related shootings, multiple attempted murders, dozens of armed robberies, witness intimidation and the widespread distribution of narcotics and firearms in North San Diego County, according to court documents.
The recent investigation helped to identify and locate Dionicio Torrez, a Diablos gang member, as the suspected killer of Cathy Kennedy, who was shot by gang gunfire March 7 as she drove home from church in Escondido.
The four proactive gang cases involved months of federal wiretaps, extensive surveillance and scores of undercover drug and gun buys, authorities said.
"When members of criminal street gangs are arrested during joint operations, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office reviews their criminal histories and coordinates with the U.S. Attorney's Office to determine where a defendant would be most appropriately prosecuted," said Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan.
"In essence, we collaborate to get the most effective bang for our prosecutorial buck and make sure justice is served, whether that happens on the state or federal side."