The California attorney general announced in a June 16 press conference that a local, state and federal law enforcement initiative named “Operation Red Reaper” had resulted in the apprehension of 54 individuals and the seizure of more than 36 pounds of illegal drugs. Becerra was joined at the press conference by the Kings County Sherriff and a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California.
The 10-month investigation focused on the narcotics activities of the Norteño and Nuestra Familia criminal gangs. The initiative was launched in September 2018 following a spike in unsolved homicides in the Central Valley area. Investigators believe that two senior Nuestra Familia members orchestrated the gang’s drug trafficking and distribution efforts from the Pleasant Valley State Prison. According to court documents, drugs brought in from locations in Mexico and California were stored at a King’s County residence before being distributed throughout Tulare and Kings Counties.
The two gangs are also said to have been involved in widespread extortion, robbery and weapons distribution. Media reports indicate that several of the individuals taken into custody face decades-long mandatory prison sentences for the drug crimes they are accused of committing. Some of them face the prospect of spending the rest of their lives behind bars.
Prosecutors often make extremely generous plea offers when major operations lead to dozens of individuals being taken into custody, but these offers are generally withdrawn as soon as prosecutors have the evidence they need to prevail in court. This is why experienced criminal defense attorneys may encourage those who find themselves in such situations to act quickly if they are considering cooperating with the authorities. However, attorneys would likely advise defendants to speak with a legal professional first to assess the strength of the evidence against them. When this evidence is unconvincing, attorneys might seek to have narcotics charges dismissed.