State and local authorities in California worked with federal law enforcement to break up a drug distribution network run by the Nuestra Familia prison gang and the Norteño street gang. Law enforcement officials announced their success with “Operation Red Reaper” on June 19. A total of 21 people, ranging in age from 19 to 49, were taken into custody.

The undercover operation began in September 2018. Authorities say that two high-ranking members of Nuestra Familia in Pleasant Valley State Prison in Fresno County had cellphones that they used to direct narcotics transport from California and Mexico to a location in Kings County. Gang members then reportedly arranged for the drugs to delivered to Kings County and Tulare County distributors.

Law enforcement claims to have seized more than 36 pounds of drugs along with 53 firearms. Allegedly, the gang was involved in robbery, drug trafficking, murder, extortion, and manufacturing, tracking and possessing firearms. Several Central Valley cities had a number of unsolved murders from 2015 to 2019 that law enforcement believed were linked to gang activity, possibly the Norteño gang. Many of the defendants face mandatory minimum sentences if convicted that range from 5 to 10 years to life in prison. Several are facing federal charges related to drug distribution.

People who are facing drug-related charges or other charges may want to talk to an attorney about defense strategies. Conviction for drug crimes does not only affect a person in a legal sense but can also affect their access to some funding for college, some types of housing and certain careers. An approach to defense may look at whether searches and seizures were legal. If evidence was obtained illegally, the case might be dismissed. Another possibility is a plea bargain, which involves pleading guilty to reduced charges and possibly getting a lighter sentence.