Las Vegas Sun

November 17, 2017

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Police say Las Vegas safer after operation cripples area gang

Image

Courtesy of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department

A composite display of alleged gang members indicted in Operation Spartan Fist.

Updated Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 | 9 p.m.

Operation Spartan Fist

A undated photo of a weapon seized in an Operation Spartan Fist search warrant. Launch slideshow »

Booking Photos: Operation Spartan Fist

A photo of indicted alleged gang member Alejandro Rodriguez. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas-area police and federal law enforcement agencies have crippled a longtime area gang, indicting most of its members in a state racketeering case, the first in Nevada targeting an entire organization, authorities said.

Operation Spartan Fist netted 21 suspects in connection with two murder cases, several attempted murder incidents, drug trafficking and robbery, Clark County Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts said Thursday. They may also be linked to a third murder.

Roberts refused to name the gang, which originated in North Las Vegas and has been operating in the valley since the 1990s, saying he wanted to avoid giving it notoriety and publicity.

The gang operated in North Las Vegas and the northeast valley but was trying to expand, officials said.

“Las Vegas is a safer place today with these individuals behind bars, and we want to send a strong message to gang members who live in Las Vegas and those who come to Las Vegas and believe they can conduct criminal activity without impunity,” said Roberts, who was flanked by local and federal officials as a slideshow of mug shots, weapons and drugs flashed on a screen.

On Sept. 30, authorities served nine simultaneous search warrants, arresting 11 suspects and seizing nine assault rifles, 10 other guns, electronics, drugs, money and “gang paraphernalia,” Roberts said. Included in the seizure were a flare launcher, a homemade silencer and a homemade zip gun, he said.

Additionally, during the investigation, which kicked off in May, three guns and an assault rifle were intercepted by authorities, possibly preventing further violent acts, Roberts said. The charges stem from crimes committed from January 2013 to October, court documents show.

A grand jury indicted 19 gang members on 35 separate counts on Oct. 11, Roberts said. By the next day, 18 of them were in handcuffs, while one remains on the run. Some of the suspects charged were already in jail on previous related incidents, including a March 20 shooting in which they targeted Metro Police officers before leading them on a car chase.

Two other members also have been arrested, officials said, but it wasn’t immediately clear why they weren’t listed in the indictment. Those indicted made court appearances this morning.

Those arrested are: the heads of the gang, Oscar “Primo” Rodriguez and Raul “Puppet” Lara; their lieutenants Rafael “Shadow” Bonilla and William “Player” Kentros; and so-called soldiers Susana “Grifo” Cuevas, Alexis “Toker” De-La-Rosa Zavala, Elizar “Crow” Gomez, Elmer “Homer” Hernandez, Anthony “Lil Bones” Lopez-Mez, Jorge “Jukie” Martinez, Richard “Sneaky” McCullough, Daniel “Dreamer” Mendoza, Eladio “Magic” Murillo, Julian “Conejo Grande” Orozco, Alejandro “White Boy” Rodriguez, Christian “Psycho” Rojas, Osvaldo “Sleepy” Rojas, William “Dub” Rojas, Joshua “Widow” Sibley, Juan “Danny” Alvarado, and Jacobo Rodriguez.

Julian “Capo” Barboza, 18, remains on the run, Roberts said. Police described him as being Hispanic. He stands about 6 feet, 1 inch, and weighs about 160 pounds. He has “702” tattooed on his stomach.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts can call police at 911. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555 or crimestoppersofnv.com

A history of violent crimes

The group — specifically Lara and Rojas-Gaspar — is linked to an April 15, 2016, shooting in North Las Vegas that left Davion McKinzie dead, court documents show. The suspects are accused of shooting two other men the same day, but it wasn’t immediately clear if the incidents were connected.

Julian Barboza, Daniel Mendoza and Rojas-Gaspar allegedly shot two teenagers in a drive-by on Feb. 12 in the 3600 block of Thomas Avenue in North Las Vegas, killing David Espinoza, documents show.

The gang is facing four counts of attempted murder in a March 20 incident, according to documents. That incident led Mendoza, Sibley, Rojas-Gaspar and Lopez-Meza on a chase with Metro after they shot toward four Metro officers but missed.

Metro gang unit and future cases

An operation of this magnitude may have not been possible without Metro’s recentralization of its gang unit in April, Metro Lt. John Leon said. “It was a big step forward for us and crucial.”

This is the first time a state racketeering case is brought against this large of a group, officials said, adding that it will continue to be an easier, swifter and preferred option when dealing with other groups.

There are other criminal syndicates in the pipeline, and police said to expect future announcements of similar cases.

The case was investigated in conjunction with Las Vegas-area police agencies, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security Investigations, officials said. It will be prosecuted by the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.

District Attorney Steve Wolfson called the indictment a “big deal.”

“These are hoodlums, these are somewhat terrorists — if you will — in our community that commit a number of violent crimes, murder, robberies, sexual assaults, and this also shows the value of a grand jury process,” he said. There is still “one thug out there, and we’re going to get him.”

Wolfson said his office committed two of its top prosecutors and that they were seeking high or no bail. “This should send a very strong message that although gang violence is on an uptick … we are tackling it, we are attacking it, and we will not tolerate it.”

North Las Vegas police Chief Alex Perez touted the partnerships his department has with other local and federal agencies.

The mission of his department, he said, is to ensure the quality of life and safety of valley residents, so that when they leave and return home, their property is intact.

“To be in your community without fear, to know that the streets belong to you, the parks belong to you,” Perez said.