37 arrested during South Bay gang raids

May 15, 2009 6:34:16 PM PDT
Federal, state and local agents staged raids in four counties on Friday, looking for gang members and other bad guys selling guns and drugs.

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"Operation Money Train" ended with 37 arrests in the south bay counties of Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara.

The Salinas Valley is Steinbeck country. It's known as the 'salad bowl of the world,' but there's an unwanted and growing reputation for gang violence.

"It's pretty scary to come to Salinas and just go shopping. You don't know if you're going to get shot at or something's going to happen," said Monterey County resident Lou Gallegos.

That's why Salinas was one target in an 11-month undercover investigation dubbed Operation Money Train. The ATF and CHP headed up a multi-agency operation aimed at rounding-up gang members and others with criminal enterprises.

"They are into anything illegal that generates money. So we're talking trafficking in stolen guns, drugs especially is very lucrative to them," said Monterey County Sheriff Mike Kalanakis.

The raid at a home in Salinas did not result in an arrest, but the overall success of the sweep was revealed at an afternoon news conference.

They include 37 arrests, nearly 30 firearms, 57 stolen vehicles and drugs with a street value of $1.4 million.

The raids took place in four counties. Agents say the arrest in Hollister involved a major methamphetamine dealer.

And while no name was released, there was another coup.

"We've just been informed minutes ago that a high ranking member of the Nuestra Familia Gang. A captain was under surveillance and taken into custody moments ago," said Chief Louis Fetherol from the Salinas Police Department.

Agents promise this is just the beginning of a massive crackdown many people welcome.

"It will make the area safer, definitely. I feel good that it's happening. Getting done," said Hollister resident Buzz Picha.

At least a dozen of the people arrested in Operation Money Train will face federal charges.

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