Operation Targets San Diego Meth, Gun Trafficking Ring

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Forty-five people have been indicted on charges stemming from an international drug ring centered in San Diego. NBC 7's Omari Fleming details what went into the investigation. (Published Thursday, Feb 6, 2014)

    Forty people are in custody and five others charged in an international drug and firearm ring centered in San Diego, according to indictments unsealed Thursday by U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy’s office.

    The investigation -- dubbed Crystal Palace II -- involved city, state and federal agents who gathered evidence for a year in eight sites, including Linda Vista, Midtown, City Heights, Mid City, Clairemont Mesa and Oak Park.

    After a three-day gang sweep, agents arrested 40 people and took 52 weapons off the street.

    The U.S. Attorney’s office said methamphetamine and drugs were being sold in a number of houses, including an apartment across the street from Hoover High School. Thursday morning, agents seized $47,600 in cash from an Oak Park house, bringing the total amount of seized cash to nearly $60,000.

    Five different conspiracies had overlapping players, including people tied to gangs like the Oriental Killer Boys, the Oriental Mob Crips, the Viet Boys, the Tiny Oriental Crips, the Logan Heights Calle Treinta and Linda Vista Crips, according to 10 indictments.

    The suspected traffickers range in age from 19 to 56, and they come from San Diego; Riverside; Salinas; San Ysidro; Tijuana, Mexico and Pahoa, Haw.

    While some of the 45 accused in the ring are felons allegedly in possession of guns, most are suspected of selling meth.

    Court documents say the drug distribution went far beyond California, reaching to Guam, Hawaii and Minnesota.

    Many of the defendants will be arraigned Tuesday afternoon.

    “The focus of Crystal Palace Part ll was on disrupting criminal gang activity in Southern California based on previously gathered intelligence. Today’s arrests, which included a number of high-level gang members who were taken off the streets, will immediately improve community safety,” said Derek Benner, special agent in charge for HSI in San Diego.

    Guns confiscated in the Crystal Palace II sweep include many assault rifles, AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, high-powered rifles, an SWD M11 9mm and two AK-47s with high capacity magazines.

    Drug crimes in San Diego and Imperial counties have increased 500 percent in the last five years, federal prosecutors said, from 144 cases in 2008 to 910 in 2013.

    Earlier this week, San Diego County health officials said in 2012, 217 people died from meth-related issues, though San Diego is no longer considered the "meth capital" of the U.S.

    Meth seizures at U.S. ports of entry along the California – Mexico border have nearly doubled as the supply shifts from small meth labs to “superlabs” operated by cartels in Mexico. Customs and Border Protection statistics show in 2013, almost 12,000 pounds of meth were confiscated at ports, compared to 6,700 pounds in 2011.