ICE arrests more than 1,780 during the largest-ever nationwide gang surge

WASHINGTON - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Thursday the arrests of 1,785 gang members and associates, criminals and immigration violators, and the seizure of more than 100 firearms as part of a six-month intensive ICE-led law enforcement operation executed in 89 cities across the country, which ended Sept. 30.

Through Operation Community Shield, ICE agents worked side by side with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners in a six-month coordinated, national public safety surge against transnational criminal street gangs in the United States. Transnational street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-born members and are frequently involved in human smuggling and trafficking, narcotics smuggling and distribution, identity theft and benefit fraud, money laundering and bulk cash smuggling, weapons smuggling and arms trafficking, cyber crimes, export violations, and other crimes with a nexus to the border.

"Operation Community Shield has progressed from a program that targeted individual gang members for arrest, prosecution, and removal to a successful strategy of dismantling the violent transnational gangs themselves," said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE John Morton. "The success of our public safety campaign in 2009 is a testament to our unique law-enforcement authority and the strong partnerships we enjoy with our law enforcement partners from across the country."

Of the 1,785 individuals arrested during the surge, 1,472 were gang members, associates or those otherwise criminally charged - including almost 35 percent with violent criminal histories and 16 gang leaders. The remaining individuals were encountered and arrested for immigration violations during the enforcement action and have been placed into removal proceedings. ICE agents arrested 905 individuals on criminal charges ranging from attempted murder, aggravated assault and drug and firearms violations to charges of re-entering the country after deportation.

Like any street gang, these transnational gangs also have a propensity toward violence. Their members commit a number of violent crimes, including robbery, extortion, assault, rape and murder.

Among those arrested during the 2009 Operation Community Shield were:

* Elmer Fredy Hernandez-Ayala, 29, an El Salvadoran national and member of the 18th Street gang was arrested in Los Angeles for re-entry after deportation. Hernandez was last deported in March 2004. Prior to his last deportation, he was convicted on California state charges of hit and run resulting in death or bodily injury. Hernandez's criminal history includes charges of robbery, sodomy, battery, loitering at a school/molesting pupils, hit-and-run resulting in death or injury, and burglary.
* Norris Lundy, 29, a U.S. citizen and a leader of the Young Head Bangers gang was arrested in Miami, Fla., for possession with intent to distribute narcotics and distribution of narcotics in or near schools. Lundy's criminal history includes charges of homicide with a weapon, premeditated murder, robbery, battery on a police officer or firefighter, resisting arrest, possessing cocaine and marijuana, and aggravated battery.
* Juan Manuel Roman, 25, a Mexican citizen and Surenos-13 gang member was arrested in Omaha, Neb., for re-entry after deportation. His criminal history includes charges of continuous sexual assault on a child, lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14, brandishing a firearm replica, battery, and participating in a criminal street gang.
* Adalberto Hernandez-Espinoza, 38, a Cuban national and leader of the Florencia-13 gang was arrested in Provo, Utah, on administrative immigration violations. Provo Police Department charged him with domestic violence, assault and threats. His previous arrests include possessing a weapon to commit assault and battery, firstdegree burglary, drug possession and trafficking, domestic violence, possessing burglary tools, and malicious destruction of private property.
* Abner Ulises Molina-Granados, 23, an El Salvadoran national and associate of Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) gang was arrested in Virginia for fraud and misusing visas, permits, and other documents. His criminal history includes charges of malicious wounding by mob, discharging a firearm in/at an occupied building, and malicious destruction of property.

The National Gang Unit at ICE identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.

Operation Community Shield partners with existing federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to share intelligence on gang organizations and their leadership, share resources and combine legal authorities to arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members. In addition to MS-13, targeted gangs included: Surenos-13, 18th Street Gang, Latin Kings, Bloods, Crips, and Vatos Locos.

Since inception through Sept. 30, 2009, ICE agents working in conjunction with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies nationwide have arrested more than 14,800 street gang members and associates. Over a third of these apprehensions, or 5,829 of the arrested gang members or gang associates had a violent criminal history. Also, 180 of those arrested were gang leaders, and 2,572 were MS-13 gang members or associates.

Through this initiative, ICE has seized 806 firearms. To date, of those arrested, 6,030 have been charged criminally, and 8,852 have been charged with immigration violations and processed for removal.

To report suspicious activity, call ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at: 1-866-347-2423 or visit

B-roll of gang enforcement operations available starting at 11 a.m. Call 202-732-4242.