At least seven alleged gang members were arrested and large stockpiles of guns and drugs were seized in raids early Wednesday involving Los Angeles Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, authorities announced.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Wipe Out,” targeted illegal firearms and drug trafficking by two notorious gangs, the Westside Wilmas and Eastside Wilmas.
In a series of pre-dawn raids, agents arrested seven people on federal charges and seized roughly 23,000 fentanyl pills, 26 kilograms of methamphetamine, and approximately 23 illegal firearms, officials said at a news briefing in San Pedro.
Four other people were arrested on state charges.
“Today’s arrests signal the end of an investigation that started in late 2020 and focused on some of the most dangerous gang members in the Harbor area,” said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At Wednesday’s briefing, officials displayed a large cache of weapons, including ghost guns and semi-automatic weapons, along with photos of drugs that were recovered during the raids.
Those arrested are believed to be connected to Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, which Mrozek said is flooding California with fentanyl.
“It’s unbelievable how many people may have died as a result of these drugs once they hit the street,” he said. “A substantial portion of the fentanyl that is in distribution in the United States is attributed to the Sinaloa Cartel and one other cartel in Mexico, but Sinaloa tends to traffic more to the California area.”
The arrests occurred without incident, officials said.
Both Eastside and Westside Wilmas are based in Wilmington, an L.A. neighborhood located near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the DOJ said. Investigators believe the gangs are controlled by separate “Mexican Mafia” members who are serving life sentences for murder in California state prisons.
Officials said three suspects, Fernando Nava, Iliana Zepeda and Ramon Gonzalez, remain outstanding and are considered federal fugitives.
The FBI said tips should be directed to the local field office.