Federal courthouse in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

Nearly a dozen federal indictments were unsealed in San Diego Thursday charging 23 documented gang members and associates with trafficking drugs and firearms.

The defendants largely hail from gangs operating in the South Bay.

The indictments are part of a yearlong investigation involving wiretaps, undercover drug and gun purchases and “extensive surveillance,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As of Thursday afternoon, 17 of the 23 defendants – all identified as San Diego residents ranging in age from 23 to 60 – were in federal or state custody.

Authorities arrested a dozen of the defendants this week. They also seized methamphetamine, heroin and firearms as part of the investigation.

Prosecutors said many of the defendants are either members or associates of gangs, some of which have “longstanding ties to the Mexican Mafia.” They operated out of South Bay communities including National City and San Ysidro.

Acting U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman noted that gangs, drugs and illegal firearms have infested “many of our neighborhoods,” which creates “a violent culture that is unsafe for residents.”

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