A Tampa, Florida operation targeting gang members resulted in 10 Tampa Bay arrests, recent reports indicate. The sting, called “Operation Nefarious” and carried out by the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, resulted in a total of 89 arrests in Tampa, Clearwater, Dade City, and Plant City. It is not clear where the arrested parties have been incarcerated or whether they have qualified for bail bond. It is similarly unclear whether any of the defendants has retained a private criminal defense attorney.
Federal authorities reported that the arrested parties are members of gangs such as the Latin Kings, Quince, Sir 13, and Norteños and that many of them were in the country illegally. Those who have been deported from the U.S. in the past are subject to federal prosecution. If immigration holds have been placed on any of the defendants, they are likely to remain incarcerated without bail bond as legal proceedings continue.
Authorities have reportedly indicated that some of the defendants are suspected of stealing, dealing drugs, soliciting or otherwise promoting prostitution, and committing violent crimes, although it is not clear whether any charges to this effect have been served. Some of the arrested parties were also arrested on charges of drug possession. It is not clear how U.S. Customs identified the defendants as gang members, nor is it clear how the investigation was carried out. Oftentimes, such investigations are conducted with the help of undercover agents.
Agency members have said that some of the arrested parties are high-ranking gang members, though the operation failed to arrest any gang leaders. Reports indicate that as of now two of the defendants have been hit with federal charges. Another one of the defendants has been in the U.S. since the age of three but was born in Mexico and will likely be deported, according to reports.
Sources indicate that one law enforcement official told the press that the arrested parties are being interviewed, and that investigators hope that the interviews will lead to new information. Officials reportedly want to use the new intelligence to make more gang-related arrests in the area.
One Homeland Security agent indicated that the agency performs the roundups, which occur annually or bi-annually, for another reason as well – to indicate to gang members that the coast is never clear. “It’s bad for business for them if they know the cops are out there, looking for them,” he told the press at an April 25 news conference in Tampa, Florida.