- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

WHITTIER, Calif. (AP) - Authorities on Tuesday arrested 31 reputed members and associates of a Los Angeles-area street gang accused of being involved in drug dealing, credit card fraud, the murder of a rival and an attack on an undercover police officer.

Three arrests were made in Northern California and Arizona and the rest were in the Los Angeles area. About 400 federal, state and local agents took part in the arrests, which were based on a federal grand jury indictment issued last week, prosecutors said.

The arrests capped a three-year investigation of the Canta Ranas gang, Spanish for “Singing Frogs,” which has about 140 members based mainly in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs east of Los Angeles, authorities said.

The gang is one of many that take orders from a prison gang, the Mexican Mafia, that regulates drug-dealing territories and protects imprisoned street gang members in exchange for receiving a portion of criminal proceeds in the form of “taxes” or “rent,” according to the indictment.

Gang members passed on coded orders or described activities through phone calls, prison visits, text messages and via Facebook, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that gang members sold heroin and methamphetamine, committed assaults, robberies and carjackings, and engaged in gun sales, identity theft and credit card fraud.

“The Canta Ranas gang is a root cause of violence and drugs in multiple communities here in Southern California,” U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker said in a statement.

“Prosecutions like this one, which target the top leaders of the gang, help make whole communities safer,” she said.

The indictment names 51 people. The alleged Mexican Mafia controller of the Canta Ranas gang, identified in the indictment only as D.G., already is serving a life sentence without chance of parole at Pelican Bay federal prison in Northern California.

Federal prosecutors said he issued orders that were carried out by a Mexican Mafia “shot caller” for the Canta Ranas, who is facing state murder charges.

Jose Loza, 37, of Whittier, is charged with killing another Mexican Mafia member who wanted to challenge the gang leadership. The man was killed on April 19 during a shooting outside a restaurant in Bassett that wounded the victim’s bodyguard and a patron.

Loza remains jailed without bail, and it was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney.

Two others are accused of shooting at a Whittier police detective who was conducting an undercover drug investigation in an unmarked car.


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