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Valley gang sweep nets 14 arrests
Operation result of investigation into prison gang Nuestra Familia
gang sweep pic1
A SWAT member rides atop an armored vehicle down Canal Drive in Turlock early Wednesday morning, as his unit secures the perimeter between Geer Road and Palm Avenue. - photo by FRANKIE TOVAR / The Journal

In a dramatic show of force that included armored vehicles on city streets, federal agents teamed up with local law enforcement to sweep through Turlock, Ceres and Modesto and take into custody 14 men in a series of arrests connected to the activities of the prison gang Nuestra Familia and the criminal street gang Nortenos.

The 10-month long investigation by the Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force culminated in the two-day operation that saw the arrests of eight men on federal drug charges and six men on state charges including attempted murder and first-degree robbery.

According to court documents, these defendants were members of the Nuestra Familia prison gang or Norteno gangs that are "feeder" gangs for the Nuestra Familia. Court documents allege that these defendants engaged in a variety of crimes to include acts of violence and methamphetamine trafficking.

"CVGIT is an excellent example of the strength of our law enforcement partnerships and how we are able to leverage that cooperation into operations that enhance public safety throughout the county," said Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager. "Criminal street gangs are a permeating blight wherever they operate and it is vitally important that we work together to rid the community of them."

Arrested on state warrants were: Jesus Manuel Aispuro, aka Chuy, 19, of Turlock, for attempted murder with enhancements for using a gun and committing the crime for the benefit of the Norteno gang; Jarred Elkins, 18, of Turlock, for attempted murder with enhancements for using a gun and committing the crime for the benefit of the Norteno gang; Ivan Anthony Gonzalez-Velasquez, 17, of Hilmar, for attempted murder with enhancements for using a gun and committing the crime for the benefit of the Norteno gang; Brian Gonzales, aka Troubles, 36, of Turlock, for first-degree robbery; Jorge Trevino, 40, of Turlock, for sales of methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine; Steven Parga, aka Silent, 19, of Turlock, for conspiracy to transport marijuana, conspiracy to bring drugs into a custodial facility, possession of methamphetamine, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and burglary.

Aispuro, Elkins, and Gonzalez-Velasquez are facing attempted murder charges for a drive-by shooting that injured one man in Turlock on Nov. 25, 2012. The 23-year-old male victim was walking with another man in the 300 block of West F Street when a black four-door vehicle pulled up next to them and an individual fired at them. The 23-year-old was struck once in the hip and rushed to a local hospital.

Gonzalez-Velasquez was 16 at the time of the shooting, but is being tried as an adult. All three were arraigned in Stanislaus County Superior Court Thursday and because they did not have attorneys present the court entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. Their bail was raised to $1.5 million each. They were given a new arraignment date for Wednesday. Aispuro and Elkins are being held at the Stanislaus County Jail and Gonzalez-Velasquez is in custody at the Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall facility.

Gonzales, along with Patrick Michael Griffith, 45, of Turlock, were arraigned Thursday as well and entered not guilty pleas for the robbery charges lodged against them. According to the criminal complaint the two men are suspected of carrying out an armed robbery in Turlock on Jan. 16. According to the Turlock Police Department report, two men forced their way into a mobile home in the 1400 block of South First Street and ordered the homeowner onto the floor at gunpoint. The homeowner was shot in the hand during the incident.

The robbery charges against both men carry enhancements for using a firearm and causing great bodily injury. Both men had their bail amounts increased to $1.1 million each. Griffith was taken into custody on Tuesday, prior to the sweep in Turlock on Wednesday.

Trevino and Parga both have court dates set for April 12. Trevino is being held in lieu of a $100,000 bail and Parga has a bail amount of $420,000.

Several of the suspects have past criminal convictions, including for some offenses in Turlock.

On July 4, 2012, Parga was arrested by Turlock police officers on suspicion of burglary. According to the police report, the victim saw Parga attempting to climb through a window of the home in the 1000 block of Chestnut Street. The victim contacted the police and Parga was apprehended nearby. He entered a no contest plea a few months later and was put on probation. Parga was charged on Nov. 30, 2012 of being a felon in possession of a weapon. Listed in the same case is 20-year-old Ernesto Negrete, who was charged with carrying a loaded concealed weapon. Negrete was arrested again on Dec. 30, 2012, on suspicion of murder based on the allegation he gunned down 35-year-old David Hernandez, who was standing in the front yard of a home in the 800 block of South Avenue. Hernandez had no known gang affiliations.

Gonzales was charged in April 2012 for possession of a controlled substance and spousal battery. The battery charge was dismissed and Gonzales pled no contest to the drug charge and was given probation, according to court records.

Taken into custody over the two-day sweep on federal charges were: Gary Romero, aka Pizza, aka Cesar, aka Pepperoni, 47, of Stockton; Joe Anthony Gomez Felix, aka Gator, aka Bullet, 33, of Modesto; Danny Richard Edwin Brown, aka D-boy, 37, of Modesto; Salvador Raymond Deleon Rodriguez, aka Sal, aka Fat Shark, 37, of Ceres; Maximilano Sanchez, aka Max, 38, of Turlock; Victor Barrajas Arriola, aka Twinky, 32, of Ceres, and Jesse Israel Alarcon, 23, of Modesto.

All of the men were named in a federal grand jury indictment March 7 charging them with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and various other drug trafficking offenses. Also included in the case is Carlos Lopez, 45, Turlock, who was arrested in December 2012, on an indictment that charged him with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The men are being tried in the federal court in Fresno.

The operation was the product of joint investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Probation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, The Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force, the California Highway Patrol, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and their Special Services Unit, the Police Departments of Ceres, Turlock, and Modesto, the Sheriff’s Departments of Merced and Stanislaus Counties, the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office, and the Stanislaus County Probation Department.

“This Central Valley Gang Impact Task Force operation exemplifies how multi-jurisdictional, collaborative FBI Safe Streets Task Forces successfully investigate and disrupt violent criminal gang activity in our communities,” said Herbert M. Brown, special agent in charge of the Sacramento FBI. “Takedowns such as the effort in Modesto and Turlock today demonstrate the commitment of the FBI and its task force partners to improving of the quality of life in our communities by removing individuals who traffic dangerous drugs and commit violent crimes from our streets.”