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FBI-Led Task Force Arrests 18 People Across SoCal For Alleged Drug Trafficking, Illegal Gun Sales

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U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna announces arrests from operation "Black Phoenix." (Robert Garrova/LAist)
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An FBI-led task force arrested 18 people this morning for a range of alleged crimes, including drug trafficking and illegal gun sales.

During the 18-month operation dubbed “Black Phoenix,” authorities said they seized roughly 28 pounds of methamphetamine, several guns and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. They said they also uncovered an illegal marijuana grow.

“The subjects targeted are believed to be either members of or associates of Asian organized crime groups that operate in the Los Angeles County area and elsewhere in a decentralized criminal network,” said John “Jack” Bennett, director in charge of the FBI’s L.A. office. “These gangs include the Wha Ching, The Black Dragons and the Asian Boyz,” he said.

Officials have seized a total of 16 firearms during the operation. They charged two residents of Ontario for allegedly selling five “ghost guns,” similar to AR-15 rifles.

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The LAPD and L.A. County Sheriff’s Department participated in the operation.

Due to the significant number of arrests, authorities processed detainees in an open air setting to allow for coronavirus-related distancing. The task force set up several white tents in a large parking lot near the intersection of Vignes Ave. and E. First St. in Little Tokyo. The tents were used as evidence, booking and interview stations and a portion of Vignes Ave. was blocked off to traffic. “This is very unusual conditions for us,” Bennett said.

In all, authorities have brought charges against 25 individuals. Four of the defendants were already in jail and three are fugitives, officials said.

If convicted, each of the defendants faces a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in federal prison.

“Some of the defendants, due to the fact that they have extensive criminal backgrounds, will face decades in federal prison,” said U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna.

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