Written by AARON CASTREJON | CityWatch Editor
REGION - Federal authorities arrested 12 people tied to a local street gang in a widespread investigation into narcotics, fraud and identity theft.
A total of 17 tied to the Puente 13 gang were named in a series of indictments returned by a federal grand jury. The investigation was a collaboration between the United States Secret Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The investigation involved wiretaps that revealed to investigators criminal activity by gang members, gang associates and others, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The 12 arrests were made over Tuesday, August 14 and Wednesday, August 15.
Crimes allegedly committed include possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, felon in possession of a firearm, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, illegal possession of access devices (credit cards), possession of access device making equipment, and possession of stolen mail, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The investigation is five months in the making, having begun when authorities learned that Puente 13 gang member Victor Ponce De Leon, 26, was involved in drug trafficking after communications were intercepted, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
In an indictment, Ponce De Leon, also known as “Dopey,” alleged he was involved in selling an ounce of methamphetamine while armed with a 9-millimeter handgun.
A scheme to smuggle narcotics into the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic was also uncovered, according to an indictment naming 39-year-old Glendora man Ricky Lee Thornburg, also known as “Shorty.” Thornburg is currently incarcerated at Pitchess.
Thornburg planned to receive the methamphetamine and heroin, hidden in plastic drinking straws, from a woman who was to visit, but the shipment was intercepted in May, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
An identity theft ring was also uncovered during the investigation, with stolen credit cards and personal identifying information from numerous common victims were found in the possession of multiple defendants, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
>>CLICK TO READ THE CHARGES AGAINST EACH DEFENDANT
Most of the defendants were arraigned in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Thornburg, Basye, Arroyave, Maribel Gomez and Jimenezare expected to soon be brought into court.
The Glendora Police Department and Culver City Police Department assisted in the investigation.