A seven-month operation aimed at violent street gang members reached its peak Wednesday with 15 arrests and the seizure of guns, drugs and cash.
A total of 30 alleged Norteño gang members have been arrested, including a Stockton-area leader and his lieutenant, a Lodi man, local and state law enforcement officials said at a press conference.
"They had two primary functions: They engaged in violent crime, and they engaged in drug trafficking," said Stockton Police Lt. Eric Ingersoll.
That violent crime included shootings, stabbings, carjackings, robberies and attempted murders.
Several recent murder targets were Lodi residents, but the crimes were stopped in time, according to law enforcement officials.
Ingersoll would not confirm specific targets or victims, since the investigation is still underway, but said the gang members "were targeting people of rival gang affiliation or had to deal with people within their own organization."
The operation targeted the Norteños, a Hispanic street gang that formed in Northern California in the 1960s, according to the DOJ's Gang Suppression Enforcement Teams. They serve as street soldiers for the Nuestra Familia prison gang.
Dubbed "Operation Monster," the sting began in October 2007 when Stockton Police investigators were following up on several gang-related assaults, Ingersoll said.
The Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, part of California's Department of Justice, got involved and soon a number of local agencies were helping.
Leader, Charles Edwin Oak Jr., 33, of Stockton. His criminal convictions included assault with a firearm, attempted robbery and being a felon possessing a handgun with two prior prison terms.
"Lieutenant," or second in line to Oak, Manuel Salazar Ramirez, 35, who was arrested May 6 during a parole search at his Almond Drive home. Police said at the time that they found a loaded handgun in his bedroom, a violation because he is a convicted felon and documented gang member.
April 15 parole search at 835 W. Harney Lane in
Noe Molina Nunez, 35, of Lodi, who had been released from prison on parole nine days earlier. During the search, Lodi detectives allegedly found methamphetamine and heroin.
Miguel Angel Gonzalez Jr., 33, of Salinas, also on parole.
Juan Ricardo Salazar Jr., 21, of Salinas, Gonzalez's brother. A preliminary hearing on drug charges for all three men had been scheduled for Tuesday, but it was rescheduled for June 4.
John Edward Pantoja Jr., 32
Edmond Ribali, 23
Timonthy Robert Collins, 23
Daniel Garcia Rangel, 26
Katherine Elizabeth Harison, 23
Kathy Jo Sullivan, 28
Randy Charles Monte, 29
Mario Angelo Arreaga, 25
Mark Jacob Vasquez, 24
Samuel Vasquez, 27
Rick Vanboeyen, 26
Johnny De Chaquies Jr., 24
Robert Primo Posada, 64
2436 E. Church St. search in Stockton
Santos Real, 22
Adrian Arista, 38
Enrique Espinoza, 24
Sheila Lewis, 40
Dennis Martin, 33
Daniel Anderson, 38
Cindy Sarcos, 35
Christine Arreaga, 21
921 Houston Ave. search in Stockton
Jaime Martinez, 24
- News-Sentinel staff
By mid-Wednesday, officials had seized 15 guns - including handguns, rifles and shotguns - 3/4 pound of methamphetamine, one ounce of cocaine and $42,000 in cash, Stockton Police Chief Tom Harris said.
Earlier in the day, five SWAT teams, with a total of 130 officers, had served nine search warrants in Lodi, Galt, Stockton and Tracy.
In Lodi, the SWAT team was about to move in on a house in the 700 block of South Washington Street when their target, Joel Ibarra Millan Jr., drove away from the home.
Other officers took Millan into custody and he joined four other Lodi residents who were arrested in connection with the sweep. Also named by authorities Wednesday were three men who have been in custody since April 15, when they were arrested on drug charges after a Harney Lane parole search.
Their faces and names were featured on a hierarchy chart displayed during Wednesday's press conference.
Stockton resident Charles Edwin Oak Jr., 33, was at the top of the list, with Lodi resident Manuel Salazar Ramirez, 35, just beneath him.
All told, the chart included eight Lodi men, one man from Tracy and 21 Stockton residents. They ranged in age from 22 to 64, with most in their 20s. Five were women.
A cursory check of court records showed previous convictions for crimes ranging from drug sales to weapons violations to vehicular manslaughter.
Prosecutors are evaluating the cases and will file charges by Friday, when all will be arraigned in Stockton, said Deputy District Attorney Ron Freitas, head of the homicide and gang unit.
"Operation Monster" was the state's second gang project targeting the Stockton area since the Department of Justice formed a gang task force in 2006. Attorney General Jerry Brown has made gangs his top priority, agent George Anderson said Wednesday.
The first sting was "Operation Mustang," announced in June against the Loc Town Crips, a Cambodian street gang involved in drive-by shootings, robberies and other assaults.