Photo by Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Federal and local authorities investigating firearm- and drug-related crimes in the San Fernando Valley conducted a series of pre- dawn raids Wednesday and took 17 people into custody.

The arrests followed a six-month investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Los Angeles Police Department.

Law enforcement personnel arrested 11 federal defendants and six state defendants.

Those taken into federal custody face charges that could bring maximum sentences ranging from five years to life imprisonment. Some federal defendants are also facing mandatory minimum sentences of five or 10 years in connection with certain drug distribution charges.

Three fugitives who have been federally indicted remain at large.

From February to July, ATF and LAPD personnel conducted a joint investigation,”working the streets and targeting violent offenders, the criminal activity of gang members, shooters and multi-convicted felons,” according to an ATF statement.

“These individuals were involved in illegal firearm possession/sales, narcotics distribution and shootings within the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County,” the ATF said.

Investigators used confidential informants to introduce an ATF undercover agent, who made controlled purchases of contraband from the suspects resulting in the seizure of 30 weapons, including restricted firearms such as short-barrel rifles and silencers, about 18 pounds of methamphetamine and nearly a quarter pound of heroin, officials said.

In the operation, Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services took custody of 14 youngsters and placed them in protective care.

ATF Los Angeles Field Division Special Agent in Charge Eric Harden said his agency “is committed to reducing violent crime.

ATF accomplishes this by working with LAPD and identifying and targeting criminal organizations and the persons responsible for perpetrating violence in our communities,” Harden said.

“Working together we successfully arrested 11 federal defendants with a criminal history of more than 100 prior arrests and more than two dozen felony convictions. The six state defendants (have) a combined criminal history of more than 30 prior arrests and more than a handful of felony convictions.”

The investigation did not target specific criminal organizations but instead zeroed in on “the worst criminal activity to include recent shootings related to street gangs Blythe, Langdon, Pacoima and San Fer,” Harden said.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said: “There is no doubt that removing guns from our streets and arresting criminals who use and carry guns prevents senseless violence in our communities.

Removing even one gun from the streets means one less Angeleno robbed, shot or murdered,” Beck said. “Nearly 950 people have been shot in Los Angeles this year; 169 have been murdered with a firearm.

Removing illegal guns is one of the LAPD’s highest priorities and working with our federal partners will help make our communities safer.”

Defendants facing federal charges include:

— Fidel Moreno-Dominguez, 47, of Palmdale;

— Walter Wilfredo Lagos, 34, of Palmdale;

— Robert Steven Carrillo, 31, of Redlands;

— Alexander Ramirez “Dozer” Manzo, 34, of Pacoima;

— Brandon C. Torres, 30, of Van Nuys;

— Antonio “Trippy” Cisneros, 31, of North Hollywood;

— Gino Cesar Dresda, 24, of Panorama City;

— Anival Alvarez, 41, of San Fernando;

— Maribel Lopez-Reyes, 30, of San Fernando;

— Luis Angel Torres, 28, of Palmdale;

— Rudy Salazar, 36, of Mission Hills;

— Albert Benjamin “Dragon” Perez, 57, of Granada Hills; and

— Steven Clyde Neaville, 53, of Van Nuys.

—City News Service

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