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11 accused Wilmington gang members arrested on weapons, drug-trafficking charges during raids

Eleven accused gang members from the Los Angeles Harbor Area were arrested Wednesday, May 17, on suspicion of federal drug and weapons charges during morning raids by federal and local law enforcement, authorities said.

The arrests, part of Operation Wipe Out, were the latest in a series of arrests and seizures stemming from an investigation into the Westside Wilmas and Eastside Wilmas street gangs that began in late 2020, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek said hours after the latest arrests during a press conference at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Harbor Station.

The raids were carried out about 4:30 a.m. at multiple locations, FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Haworth said. Seven of those arrested on Wednesday were accused of trafficking firearms and narcotics, including fentanyl.

LAPD Capt. Brent McGuyre discusses the arrests of 11 accused Westside Wilmas gang members on suspicion of various crimes. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office, announces the arrests. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

The FBI’s Sean Haworth discusses the arrests of 11 accused Westside Wilmas gang members. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

These weapons from past seizures tied to the operation were displayed at a press conference that updated the latest in an ongoing investigation. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

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“The defendants arrested today allegedly trafficked or possessed a significant amount of contraband,” Mrozek said. “We’re talking more than 50 pounds of methamphetamine, about 23,000 fentanyl pills, more than five pounds of powdered fentanyl and 23 firearms, some of which were ghost guns.”

All of the arrests took place without incident or injury, he said.

On Wednesday, authorities said, they seized 23 firearms, 26.2 kilograms of methamphetamine, about 23,000 fentanyl pills, 2.4 kilograms of powdered fentanyl and one kilogram of cocaine.

“Each one of these guns was destined to get into the hands of a violent criminal,” said Capt. Brent McGuyre of the LAPD’s Harbor Division. “It’s no accident that in the local Harbor Area we’ve seen a 23 percent reduction in shootings.”

The Harbor Area — which takes in San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City and the Harbor Gateway — has not experienced a reported homicide in 2023, the longest stretch into a calendar year in the 21st century. On average, McGuyre said, the station sees six homicide victims by mid-May.

The two Wilmas organizations, along with other Harbor Area gangs, commit crimes under the direction of the Mexican Mafia, a California prison gang whose members set up drug and firearms deals from inside state prisons and direct local gang members to carry out the transactions, authorities said.

During the investigation, a Mexican Mafia associate on death row in San Quentin set up deals with an undercover law enforcement officer by phone, Mrozek said. Over five months, law enforcement made 20 purchases of fentanyl, methamphetamine and firearms from the Mexican Mafia, which sent local gang members to deliver the products to the officer, said the FBI’s Haworth.

From October to February, officials said, Patricia Amelia Limon, 53 — a Lomita resident, gang member and Mexican Mafia associate — fulfilled seven drug and firearm deals set up by the Mexican Mafia associate, officials said. She supplied methamphetamine, fentanyl, firearms and ammunition to a buyer, an undercover officer, and collected money on behalf of the Mexican Mafia member, according to a criminal complaint.

On Nov. 2, she is accused of supplying 5,000 rainbow-colored fentanyl pills to an undercover officer for $5,300 and, 15 days later, supplying nearly four pounds of methamphetamine and 2,000 fentanyl pills to an undercover officer for $5,000, according to the complaint.

Jesus Chuy Delgado, a 46-year-old San Pedro resident, was accused of a series of methamphetamine and firearms sales in January and February occurring across the street from a high school and middle school in San Pedro, the complaint says.

Limon and Delgado face potential life sentences in prison if convicted of the charges they face, officials said.

In addition to the 11 arrested on Wednesday, one suspect was found already in custody, 11 others were previously arrested with two of those convicted and sentenced to 10 to 20 years in state prison. Three suspects had not been found yet.

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