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Local gang crackdown nets about two-dozen suspects


Including a Lancaster resident

Federal officials have announced charges against nearly two dozen suspected members and associates of a transnational street gang who allegedly trafficked large quantities of methamphetamine and funneled profits to an imprisoned gang leader.

The takedown resulted in the arrests Tuesday of 17 of the 23 people charged in the case. Four more of the federal defendants were already in state custody, and authorities were still looking for two additional people named in the indictment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As part of the crackdown, law enforcement seized an unspecified amount of suspected methamphetamine, fentanyl and cocaine. Authorities also seized nine firearms and about $94,000 in cash–with about $50,000 allegedly seized from one residence, federal prosecutors said.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada described the gang as “one of the largest and most violent gangs in North America,” known for “violence and destruction, the victims of which are most often immigrants from Central America and Mexico and other Latinos.”

Estrada said the gang uses methamphetamine trafficking “to finance its modus operandi of murder and mayhem.”

The case filed in L.A. federal court focuses on the gang’s activities in Los Angeles. The indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges that an imprisoned gang member who also was a member of the Mexican Mafia controlled street dealing by requiring all the gang’s local cliques to buy methamphetamine from Herlyn “Doctorazo” Barrientos, 46, of Huntington Park, and others.

Once the various cliques redistributed the methamphetamine, some of the profits flowed to the imprisoned gang member, the indictment alleges.

From July 2021 through August of this year, the inmate allegedly designated two people to be the overall shot callers for the gang in Los Angeles. Pavel Hurtado, 36, of Oxnard, and Eli Grijalva, 34, of South Los Angeles, allegedly oversaw the gang’s drug trafficking plans and communicated with the inmate to coordinate its drug trafficking activities.

Another defendant, Agustín Aquino-Martínez, 46, of Lancaster, allegedly acted as treasurer for the gang in Los Angeles, and coordinated the collection of the drug proceeds and “taxes” from each Los Angeles clique, according to the indictment. He was also responsible for forwarding profits and taxes to the inmate, according to the indictment.

The indictment charges all 23 defendants with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute methamphetamine. Thirty-four of the indictment’s 36 counts charge individual gang members and associates–including Hurtado, Grijalva and Barrientos–with distribution of methamphetamine. One of the indictment’s counts accuses an individual gang member of being a felon unlawfully possessing ammunition inside a ghost gun.