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27 indicted in Mexican Mafia gang extortion case

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VENTURA, Calif. >> More than two dozen people have been charged in connection with case where the notorious Mexican Mafia prison gang controlled the street drug activities of local gangs through extortion, authorities said Tuesday.

Twenty-five adults and two teens were indicted by a Ventura County grand jury on charges ranging from extortion to robbery, assault and drug offenses. Twenty of the defendants are in custody and six remain fugitives.

The crimes occurred during a five-month period ending earlier this month. Two planned killings and a drugstore robbery were thwarted because of the investigation known as “Operation Wicked Hand.”

Authorities seized heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine as well as 32 weapons, including assault rifles.

“This case has dealt a crushing blow to organized crime in Ventura County,” said Assistant Sheriff Gary Pentis. “We have incapacitated the organization from the top through its geographic managers.”

Mexican Mafia gang leaders used intimidation and their narco-trafficking powers to direct extortion and fear to control the criminal activities of Ventura County gangs.

Investigators said the Mexican Mafia has even managed to get rival gangs to commit violent crimes together.

“These are hard-core criminal gang members. They wake up every day and try to decide where they’re going to commit crimes that day and victimize the people of this county,” Sheriff Geoff Dean said.

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