LOS ANGELES – A Latino gang conspired to rid a Southern California city of its black residents through intimidation, threats and violence dating back to the early 1990s to exert its influence and show its loyalty to the Mexican Mafia prison gang, according to a federal racketeering indictment unsealed Tuesday.
More than 50 people were charged as authorities made early morning raids targeting the Varrio Azusa 13 gang. Federal prosecutors said the gang, which has about 400 members or associates, engaged in a host of crimes ranging from drug trafficking to hate crimes that have hobbled Azusa, a city of about 45,000 residents near Los Angeles.
“We hope that this federal case will signal the end of this racist behavior and will help vindicate all of the victims who have suffered over the years,” U.S. Attorney Andri Birotte Jr. said.
Sixteen of the people named in the indictment were arrested Tuesday, while another 23 were already in custody, U.S. attorney’s spokesman Thom Mrozek said. Authorities were seeking another 12 suspects.
The crackdown is the latest effort by law enforcement to cripple Latino gangs that have targeted blacks in the Los Angeles area.
In Azusa, six people have been charged with civil rights violations for allegedly harassing, and in some cases attacking, African-Americans to drive them out of the city or to prevent them from relocating there. Most of the defendants named in the indictment face a minimum 10-year prison sentence.