Following a four-month law enforcement investigation, dubbed Operation Green Hand, 86 alleged members of Westside Verdugo criminal street gang were recently arrested, said John McMahon, San Bernardino County Sheriff. At a press conference June 30, District Attorney Michael Ramos said criminal charges were already filed against 28, of the 86, alleged gang members. He called the accused "terrorists".

Operation Green Hand not only resulted in arrests, but law enforcement also seized nearly 5,000 rounds of ammo, 43 firearms, $29,600 in cash, four stolen vehicles, and a cache of drugs – 4.7 pounds of black tar heroin, 22 pounds of cocaine, 112 pounds of methamphetamine, and 402 pounds of marijuana.

State Attorney General says gang members to face justice

Xavier Becerra, California Attorney General stated that he refuses allowing gang violence to terrorize California communities. The state’s attorney general stated that these arrests are giving a “strong message,” telling criminals that they are not beyond reproach and will be held to account.

The Sureño (street) gang and the Mexican Mafia (gang) have committed a score of violent acts and shootings, reported the Fontana Herald News. The Sureños, groups of tenuously affiliated gangs, pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia. Additionally, the newspaper stated, the suspects arrested are alleged to have committed conspiracy-related robbery, narcotics violations, and firearms conspiracies.

McMahon said the gangs recruits come from schools and neighborhoods in “our communities.” They also cause fear, along with committing carjackings, human trafficking, extortion, murders, and selling illegal weapons and drugs to advance their crime-laden organization. He said he values partnering with additional law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local levels to affect freeing society from such criminals.

The investigation was a collaborative effort involving: California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation, Special Operations Unit (SOU), Southern California Team, the San Bernardino County Gang Intelligence Team, and the District Attorney’s office. The Fontana Police Department, the FBI, Safe Streets Gang Task Force, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and the ATF also assisted in the sting.

The collaboration between various agencies, according to McMahon, was “critical” – central for confronting the suspects with the justice system.

Goals of law enforcement gang investigation and sting

The agencies’ goal in Operation Green Hand was identifying Westside Verdugo gang members, which has its roots in the 1950s in San Bernardino County, the Desert Dispatch reported. The investigation and sting entailed infiltrating and preventing gangs’ activities on the streets and controlling their activities in California’s state prisons.

Ramos said the goal of his office is to hold the gang members responsible and declare victory, with each battle won, “against the war on gangs.”

According to the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, the multi-agency investigation facilitated identifying the hierarchy of gang members for the Westside Verdugo, orchestrating criminal activity with the state’s prisons.

Within the 86 arrests, five of those were for misdemeanor charges and 81 were for felony charges. Ramos said, the gangs “prey on” young children” recruited from within communities. His office is targeting territorial gangs, dealing drugs and assaulting, hurting or murdering innocent bystanders in the process.