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Pre-dawn raid nabs 21 alleged gangsters

Posted: November 19, 2008 10:40 p.m.
Updated: November 20, 2008 4:59 a.m.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents lead two handcuffed alleged gang members onto a bus Wednesday morning, after officials arrested 21 people in Canyon Country and Newhall, 15 of them for immigration violations.

A law enforcement sweep nabbed 21 alleged foreign national gang members hiding out in the Santa Clarita Valley Wednesday morning, a sheriff's official said.

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's deputies joined Los Angeles County Probation and United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on a pre-dawn raid at 28 locations in Canyon Country and Newhall where known gang members live, Lt. Brenda Cambra said.

The joint effort between federal and local law enforcement is known as Operation Community Shield, she said.

"These operations send a clear message to active gang members in the Santa Clarita Valley that we are partnering with county, state and federal resources to keep our streets and communities safe," said Capt.
Anthony La Berge of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

The operation was launched in 2005 and uses multiple agencies to arrest, prosecute, imprison and deport transnational gang members, Cambra said.

ICE agents arrested 15 of the suspects on immigration violations, Cambra said. Officers will turn over two suspects who face felony re-entry charges to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution, she said.

Four of the 21 suspects were booked at Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station on separate charges. Neri Leon, a 19-year-old male, is charged with allegedly violating an outstanding narcotics warrant. Gaudalupe Vasquez, 48, was charged for alleged battery on a peace officer. Cecilio Rodriguez, 48, and Juan San Augustine, 24, were charged with alleged possession of forged identification, Cambra said.

"The people targeted in today's joint gang operation are career criminals who often prey on members of the immigrant community," said Robert Schoch, ICE special agent. "We want to send a clear message to foreign national gang members that ICE intends to deal strongly with those who disregard our immigration laws and place our neighborhoods at risk."

La Berge wants to remain proactive.

"You can expect more of these operations in the near future," La Berge said. "Active gang members should get the message and change their way of life or they can expect to hear from us during other similar operations."


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