Law enforcement officials have made a significant breakthrough in their fight against gang activity in Los Angeles. Seven members and associates of two major harbor area street gangs, Westside Wilmas and Eastside Wilmas, were recently arrested on federal charges related to the sale of fentanyl and “ghost guns.” These arrests are part of an ongoing initiative to reduce violence in the area, and they have resulted in the seizure of numerous firearms, methamphetamine, fentanyl pills, powdered fentanyl, and cocaine. The gangs involved are reportedly controlled by the Mexican Mafia, a California prison gang, and their activities are directed from within state prisons. The charges against the arrested individuals include distribution of controlled substances and possession of firearms by felons.
Arrests Made in Relation to Fentanyl and ‘Ghost Gun’ Sales
In the ongoing efforts to combat gang-related activities involving the trafficking of firearms and narcotics, law enforcement officials have made significant arrests in the Los Angeles Harbor area. The individuals apprehended are members and associates of various street gangs, including the notorious Westside Wilmas and Eastside Wilmas gangs. These arrests are a major milestone in the violence reduction initiative that was launched by a joint task force consisting of the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department, with the aim of targeting gang activity in the Harbor area.
Background Information on the Arrests
Prior to the recent arrests, 11 members and associates of Harbor area street gangs had already been charged with federal drug, firearms, and Hobbs Act robbery crimes as part of the violence reduction initiative. Of those defendants, three have already been convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 to 20 years. The arrests made in relation to fentanyl and ‘ghost gun’ sales mark the next phase of this initiative.
Violence Reduction Initiative
The violence reduction initiative, launched in late 2020, is a collaborative effort between the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department. Its primary goal is to target gang activity in the Harbor area, with a specific focus on reducing violence associated with firearms and drug trafficking. By disrupting the operations of street gangs, law enforcement aims to create safer communities and protect the well-being of residents.
Previous Convictions and Sentences
The convictions and sentences of the 11 Harbor area gang members and associates who were previously charged demonstrate the effectiveness of the violence reduction initiative. These individuals were found guilty of federal drug, firearms, and Hobbs Act robbery crimes, and their sentences ranged from 10 to 20 years in prison. These outcomes send a strong message that criminal activities will not go unpunished and serve as a deterrent to others involved in similar illegal operations.
Details of the Arrests and Charges
Seven federal defendants linked to the Los Angeles Harbor area street gangs were arrested in May 2023 on various federal charges. These charges include the distribution of controlled substances, possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The arrests were made following the filing of three criminal complaints in federal court, with an additional four defendants being apprehended on state charges. The extensive investigation leading up to these arrests was carried out by the joint task force, focusing on influential members and associates suspected of engaging in a range of illegal activities.
Seized Items and Quantities
In the course of the arrests and subsequent searches, law enforcement officials seized a significant amount of illicit items. These include approximately 23 firearms, 26.2 kilograms of methamphetamine, around 23,000 fentanyl pills, 2.4 kilograms of powdered fentanyl, and one kilogram of cocaine. The seizure of these items represents a major setback for the criminal activities of the targeted street gangs and underscores the commitment of law enforcement to removing harmful substances and dangerous weapons from our communities.
Gang Involvement and Control
The Harbor area gangs, such as Westside Wilmas and Eastside Wilmas, operate under the control and authority of the Mexican Mafia, a California prison gang. The Mexican Mafia exercises control over many Latino street gangs in Southern California, including the Wilmas gangs. Despite serving life sentences, Mexican Mafia members continue to direct the activities of these gangs from within the state prison system, using illicit cellular telephones and other digital devices to communicate with their associates on the outside.
Illegal Activities and Gang Members
The targeted Harbor area gangs, particularly the Wilmas gangs, are involved in a wide range of illegal activities, including drug trafficking and firearms sales. The recently apprehended individuals, such as reputed Westside Wilmas member Jesus Chuy Delgado, were engaged in illicit sales of methamphetamine and firearms, including so-called “ghost guns” lacking proper serial numbers. These criminal activities were carried out even while Delgado was on parole.
The Role of the Mexican Mafia
The Mexican Mafia plays a significant role in the criminal operations of the Wilmas gangs and other Harbor area gangs. Despite their incarceration, Mexican Mafia leaders and associates continue to exert control and influence over the activities of these gangs. The Mexican Mafia’s hierarchical structure allows leaders to direct drug and firearm sales, and their communication network enables them to coordinate criminal activities from behind bars. The apprehension of individuals like Patricia Amelia Limon, a reputed Wilmas and Mexican Mafia associate, highlights the extent of the Mexican Mafia’s reach, as Limon fulfilled drug and firearm deals under the direction of a Mexican Mafia associate on death row.
For further information on the arrests made in relation to fentanyl and ‘ghost gun’ sales in the Los Angeles Harbor area, please refer to the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Central District of California. This press release provides more details on the arrests, the seized items, and the charges faced by the defendants. Additionally, it includes information on related cases and recent developments in the fight against drug trafficking and firearms offenses.