Clampdown in Los Banos nets 101 gang leaders, members

June 8, 2011 

— Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the arrest of 101 leaders and members of gangs operating in the Los Banos area Wednesday morning during a press conference at Los Banos City Hall.

Most of the gang members are believed to be members of the Nuestra Familia gang.

The operation was code named "Red Zone" and led by the Bureau of Narcotics enforcement office in Fresno.

The arrests included five key Nuestra Familia commanders, including Felipe Gutierrez, a truck driver who officials believe is responsible for oversight of gang activity in Merced and Madera counties.

Gutierrez, who faces federal charges, was arrested at his workplace in Fresno.

Also arrested were Gonzalo Esquivel, Gustavo Moreno, Augustine Singh, and Ephraim Garibay. Singh was already in Merced County Jail and was re-arrested on a warrant.

Warrants were served by 31 teams of law enforcement agents.

Charges range from attempted murder to drug trafficking. Among the 101 arrests, eight people are facing federal charges.

An investigation into criminal activities of the Nuestra Familia prison gang and Norteno criminal street gang began in September 2010, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The investigation found evidence of a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, according to the indictment.

Esquivel, Kenneth Hernandez and Efren Steve Jiminez allegedly arranged the delivery of two ounces of meth to Moreno and David Torres.

When Moreno and Torres drove away, officers with the California Highway Patrol stopped their car and found the drugs.

She was joined at the press conference by Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse, U.S. Attorney Ben Wagner, Madera County Sheriff Anderson and Congressman Dennis Cardoza.

The arrests happened in Merced and Madera counties, including the cities of Merced, Los Banos, Livingston, Dos Palos and Madera.

Keep checking MercedSunStar.com for updates on this breaking story.

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