LOS ANGELES – U.S. federal and local authorities have arrested 10 members and associates of the 18th Street gang in Los Angeles and other places, primarily on federal narcotics charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
In a sweep that began Tuesday evening and continued into Wednesday, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), as well as deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and officers with the Los Angeles Police Department, took the eight defendants into custody. One defendant was arrested in Honolulu, and another in Indianapolis.
Three other people who face federal charges were already in local custody, and law enforcement continues to search for five more defendants.
The arrests are the culmination of an HSI-led investigation that began in December 2014. The investigation focused on the distribution and sale of methamphetamine and unlicensed sales of firearms.
During the course of the investigation, authorities seized approximately four kilograms of methamphetamine and 14 firearms, including five assault rifles. The investigation led to six indictments that charge a total of 18 defendants.
Among those arrested Wednesday are Giovanny Ochoa, also known as “Sporty” and “Speedy,” 26, of Hawthorne, and Aveline Villalba, also known as “Gordo” and “Fatboy,” 36, of South Los Angeles, who are charged in an indictment with selling approximately one-quarter pound of methamphetamine in the fall of 2016 to an undercover operative. Ochoa is additionally charged in relation to another quarter-pound sale, as well as transactions involving one-ounce quantities of meth. If they are convicted of conspiracy and narcotics-distribution charges, Ochoa and Villalba each would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and could be sentenced to as much as life.
Ochoa, Villalba and the other six defendants arrested in the Los Angeles area have been arraigned in United States District Court. All eight pleaded not guilty and were ordered held without bond pending trial.
The two defendants arrested in other districts have also been ordered held without bond and are expected to be transported to Los Angeles in the coming weeks.