LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A nationwide sweep targeting the Surenos street gang and its associates has resulted in the arrests of 757 suspects, including 131 in Southern California, federal officials announced today.

The Surenos originated in Southern California but now the gang, which pays tribute to the Mexican Mafia, has hundreds of cliques across the U.S., according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.

The arrests capped a month-long investigation, dubbed Project Southbound, that was conducted from March 12 to April 13 by HSI and other  federal agencies, as well as state and local law enforcement, according to HSI.

Agents arrested 638 suspected gang members and associates and another 119 people for alleged violations of federal and state laws, including immigration regulations, the agency reported.

The arrests included 99 in Los AngelesCounty, six in OrangeCounty,  four in Riverside and San Bernardino counties and 21 in VenturaCounty, according to HSI, which reported that 19 guns were seized by special agents in  Southern California.

Of those arrested in the Southland, “106 are facing state prosecution  for violations ranging from weapons offenses to drug charges,” according to an HSI statement. 

Most are suspected of re-entering the U.S. after being deported and are facing possible felony prosecutions in federal court while 25 were processed for immigration violations and now face deportation, officials said.

One suspect, a 35-year-old Nicaraguan national who was arrested on April 11 in Los Angeles on suspicion of driving under the influence, among other alleged violations, is an 18th Street Gang member with prior convictions for witness intimidation, battery, robbery, drug possession and vehicular manslaughter, according to HSI.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice's NationalGangIntelligenceCenter's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, the Surenos gang and its  various cliques are expanding faster than any other national-level gang in the  U.S.

“Surenos members now number more than 30,000 in the continental United States, and their numbers are growing,” said Claude Arnold, special agent-in- charge for HSI Los Angeles.

“These are ruthless people whose criminal activities and turf wars menace our communities and place innocent members of the public in harm's way. Through gang enforcement operations like this, HSI and our law enforcement partners will continue to disrupt and dismantle transnational gangs and rid our  streets of these career criminals.”  

The arrested suspects hail from 21 nations in South and Central America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, according to HSI.


In Southern California, HSI partnered in the investigation with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, state parole officials and police from Los Angeles, South Gate, Bell, Huntington Park, Bell Gardens, Anaheim, Placentia  and Torrance, the agency reported.