ESCONDIDO, Calif. — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives San
Diego Group IV Field Office and the Escondido Police Department announced in a press release Tuesday that 23 defendants are facing various charges following an 18-month investigation.

The ATF said the charges consisted of various narcotics and firearms-related offenses. Law enforcement seized 113 firearms with most of them being privately made “Ghost Guns.”

The duo investigation, referred to as “Operation Devil’s Den,” targeted violent gang activity in and around the city of Escondido, particularly zoning in on members of the Diablos, Westside, and Florencia 13 gangs.

“This joint investigation is another exemplary illustration of ATF’s commitment to creating safer communities,” said ATF Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge, Monique Villages. “ATF is working nonstop with our local law enforcement partners to disrupt the private manufacturing of firearms and machine gun conversion devices.”

Authorities also conducted narcotic seizures of 15.5 pounds of methamphetamine, 115 grams of fentanyl, 20 grams of ecstasy and 5 grams of cocaine, according to the press release.

“The Escondido Police Department places a high priority on combating violent crime and
keeping our community safe,” said Escondido Police Department’s Interim Chief, David Cramer.
“An integral part of that endeavor is the partnerships we maintain with other law enforcement
agencies. We are proud of the collaboration with our federal partners to keep dangerous and
illegal weapons out of the hands of prohibited persons.”

From Jan. 1, 2016 through Dec. 31, 2021, the press release noted, there were approximately 45,240 suspected privately made firearms reported to ATF nationwide as having been recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes.