Nineteen defendants arrested in a roundup of gang members in San Diego County will remain in federal custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday, a federal judge ruled Friday.
The 17 men and two women, ranging in age from 21 to 53 and hailing from San Diego, throughout East County and National City, face charges that include racketeering and various drug and weapons counts.
In a news conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said the members of the West Coast Crips, “a particularly volatile and violent” gang, were rounded up by more than 500 law enforcement officers from numerous agencies. Hours later the alleged ringleader was taken into custody as well.
Authorities said the operation began as a drug investigation by El Cajon police. But after connections were made to other people and several homicides, it snowballed to include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI and the San Diego Police Department.
The gang was active in El Cajon, Spring Valley and the San Diego neighborhoods of Logan Heights and East San Diego, according to Duffy, who said the sweep netted 45 suspects.
Around 6 p.m. Thursday, hours after authorities fanned out in the San Diego area, the man identified as the top West Coast Crip, Randy Alton Graves, 50, of El Cajon, was found and arrested in Las Vegas by FBI agents, said FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth of the agency’s San Diego field office. Eight others are still being sought.
Nine of the defendants who appeared in court Friday are charged with rackeeteering:
- Donald Eugene Bandy, 25, Solcamire Castro-Hernandez, 28, Jermain Gerald Cook, 29, Leon Franklin, 39, Sharod Jackson, 45, Gaquayla Aunicia Lagrone, 31 and Cleotha Young, 36, all of San Diego;
- Luis Salgado-Viscarra, 26, of Spring Valley
- Dameon Deshawn Shelton, 40, of National City.
Charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime are:
- David William Centrone, 31, Terry Gerald Woods, 53, and Reuben Carlton Morales, 27, all of El Cajon;
- Rene Faburrieta, 33, and Steven Luis Figueroa, 25, both of Long Beach
- Mark Manuel Espinosa, whose age and city of residence were not provided.
Charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime and being a felon in possession of a firearm are:
- William Eugene Wash, 27, of Lemon Grove
- Jessie Smith, 30, of San Diego and David Rojas, 21, of San Diego
- Terrell Davon Guss, 22, of Spring Valley.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Nita Stormes set Wednesday’s detention hearing after prosecutors called the defendants – who all face up to life in prison if convicted – flight risks and threats to public safety. They did not enter pleas to the charges.
Authorities said that during the sweep, they found handguns, sawed-off shotguns, rifles and ammunition. Duffy said the serial numbers and other identifying information on the firearms had been removed.
She said the officers who took part in the raids also discovered various types of drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars of counterfeit bills.
Some of the defendants allegedly also were involved in recent homicides, Duffy said. Some of the murder victims were members or associates of the gang who were accused of cooperating with police, or who criticized other killings.
Another group of defendants, who will be prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office, are scheduled to be arraigned Monday at the San Diego County Courthouse.
– City News Service
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