By City News Service
Federal authorities made a series of arrests Tuesday of reputed MS-13 gang members and associates as part of a crackdown on an alleged drug-trafficking and extortion network.
Nine separate federal indictments unsealed Tuesday charged 14 people in the case, while six others are facing state charges, prosecutors said. Agents arrested nine of the 14 federal defendants today. Three were already in custody on unrelated charges and one remains a fugitive, according to Bill Lewis, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office.
MS-13 operates in various districts of Los Angeles, including Rampart, Wilshire and Hollywood. The gang is estimated to have several thousand members throughout the country, federal officials said.
The investigation focused on known members and associates of the Mara Salvatrucha -- MS-13 -- gang and its associated cliques, considered to be the largest and among the most violent gangs in the Los Angeles area.
During today's operation, seven minor children were removed by the Department of Children and Family Services from some defendants' homes, Lewis said.
Those charged in the federal indictments are:
-- Thomas "Big Boy" Rodriguez, 35, of Los Angeles;
-- Jose "Dreamer" Rodriguez, 34, of Los Angeles;
-- Jorge "Spike" Orellana, 34, of Los Angeles;
-- Anival "Pantera" Orellana, 35, of Los Angeles;
-- Juan "Duende" Garcia, 32, of Los Angeles;
-- Rogelio "Sky" Lemus, 42, of Los Angeles;
-- Elvis "Lil' Comando" Molina, 33, a fugitive, of Lynwood;
-- Jose "Chema" Avelar, 38, of Los Angeles;
-- Lazaro "Fino" Nunez, 28, of Los Angeles;
-- Fabel "Spooky" Roque, 25, of Kansas City;
-- Sandra Hernandez Chinchila, 40, of Valencia;
-- Mario "Plucky" Morales, no age or city given;
-- Luis "Lil' One" Vega, 29, no city given; and
-- Edwin "Directo" Castillo, 31, no city given.
In addition, six people face charges in state court:
-- Santos "Payaso" Ventura, 30, of Los Angeles;
-- Jonathan "Lento" Chavez, 25, of Los Angeles;
-- Thomas "Lil' Lonely" Linares, 30, of Los Angeles;
-- Oscar Chavez, 28, of Los Angeles;
-- Ivan "Inocente" Castro, 21, no city given; and
-- Candi Pascual, no age or city given.
If convicted of the charges, the defendants face potential maximum sentences between 10 years to life in prison.