Massive Drug Ring Operating Inside LA Jails Busted By FBI

Massive Drug Ring Operating Inside LA Jails Busted By FBI
Still of surveillance video allegedly showing inmate smuggling drugs. (Courtesy of Los Angeles County Police Department)

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Leaders of the notorious Mexican Mafia “gang of gangs” were charged Wednesday, May 25, with running a government-like operation to control drug trafficking from inside Los Angeles County jails that included ordering violence against those who didn’t obey.

The U.S. attorney’s office charged 83 people in sweeping racketeering conspiracies that alleged they ran drugs and carried out violent assaults and murders.

“These cases have delivered a major blow to the Mexican Mafia and leaders of many of the street gangs under the control of the organization,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said. “By taking out the gang members who control the jails, and by disrupting their communications network, we undermined the Mexican Mafia’s ability to coordinate street gang activity.”

Prosecutors said the gang — an organization of imprisoned Latino street gang leaders who control operations inside and outside California prisons and jails — was able to control smuggling, drug sales and extortion inside the nation’s largest jail system.

Indictments detailed how the gang had begun in Los Angeles in 1950s at a juvenile jail and had grown to an international criminal organization that had a methodical system to communicate from behind bars, control gang territory and collect “taxes” for drug sales through extortion.

“These Mexican Mafia members and associates, working together to control criminal activity within (LA County jails), have become their own entity or enterprise and effectively function as an illegal government,” an indictment said.

Drugs smuggled into the prison by facilitators of the Mexican Mafia leader were required to be sold first, with the proceeds going to that leader. Other groups that brought in drugs had to give a third of their contraband to the Mexican Mafia leadership.

The fee, known as a “thirds” tax, gave the name “Operation Dirty Thirds” to the FBI-led investigation that gave rise to the indictments and arrest of 32 people early Wednesday, May 23. Another 35 defendants are in custody and 16 were fugitives.

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