Police: Arrests cripple violent gang’s drug network

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Ricardo Torres-Cortez

Metro Police gang and vice Capt. John Leon, right, and Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, left, address reporters on Dec. 5, 2018, regarding arrests in an operation that targeted the 18th Street transnational gang in the Las Vegas Valley.

Published Wed, Dec 5, 2018 (1:58 p.m.)

Updated Wed, Dec 5, 2018 (7:20 p.m.)

More than two dozen members of a violent street gang, including the regional boss, have been arrested in the Las Vegas Valley since March, crippling its drug distribution network, according to Metro Police.

The suspects, members of the 18th Street gang, are responsible for some of the most violent crimes in the valley over the last 18 months, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said today, pointing to a chart with 29 mugshots.

“We are a safer community today because of the efforts of this investigation,” he said.

Officials today publicly identified the suspects and announced that the operation had taken place.

The crimes attributed to the gang include two slayings, several attempted homicides, shootings, kidnappings and robberies, and drug trafficking, authorities said. Details about specific crimes were not immediately available.

One of the suspects, Henry Rios, is accused in the May 2017 slaying of Adan Gavilanes, according to a criminal complaint. Gavilanes was reportedly killed in a tagging dispute.

A Hispanic syndicate that originated in Southern California, the 18th Street gang, also known as Barrio 18, operates in “cliques” across North and Central America, according to insightcrime.org, which studies organized crime.

Three of those cliques were targeted in the investigation, which began in March at the High Desert State Prison northwest of Las Vegas, Metro Capt. John Leon said.

Corrections officers identified illegal activity occurring at the prison and gathered intelligence that proved vital to making arrests in connection with crimes happening in valley streets, Leon said.

The operation uncovered 55 felony crimes, and investigators seized 20 firearms, a pound and a half of methamphetamine and half a pound each of marijuana and cocaine, Leon said. Heroin also was recovered, authorities said.

The arrests, which targeted gang leaders and more violent members, “will resonate for a number of years,” Leon said.

The operation involved investigators from Metro Police, the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. Clark County and federal prosecutors worked on building the cases.

This wasn’t the first time a similar operation has taken place in the valley.

In March, police announced the arrest of five MS-13 members who’d been linked to 10 slayings over a year’s period.

Operation Spartan Fist netted 21 gang members in late September 2017.

Earlier that year, several suspects were nabbed in the valley in connection to a federal racketeering case involving a biker gang.

The 18th Street suspects

“Bebitos” clique: Juan Bustamante (leader); Julio Berrios; Michael Troncoso; Juan Buendia; Jeffrey Pimental; Jessica Leavitt; Jonathan Martinez; Armando Bazua; Alfonso Ruiz; Joey Montoya; Shannon Alvarez-Castillo, and Javier Lara.

“Lil Criminals” clique: Roberto Ruiz (leader); Denise Aquino; Nguyen Hooker; Hector Tenorio; Frank Rodriguez; Herbert Marquez; Daniel Zavala; Carlos Faudoa; Angelo Mejia; Juan Llamas and Anthony Hickman.

“Palos Verdes Locos” clique: Andrew Bobian (leader); Danny Bueno; Henry Rios; Giovanny Garcia; Guillermina Lozano and Juan Perez.

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