U.S. Customs and Immigration officials announced Thursday that more than 600 gang members, including nearly two dozen from Toledo, have been arrested in a nationwide sweep by Homeland Security.
During Project Southbound, a month-long operation executed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, gangs affiliated with the Surenos, a transnational criminal street gang, were targeted.
Along with help from the Toledo Police Department's Gang Task Force, the operation brought about the arrests of 20 gang members and associates in Toledo.
"The Toledo Police Department is always willing [to] partner in the aggressive effort to reduce gang violence [in] our communities," said Lt. Edward Bombrys, commander of TPD's Gang Task Force. "When we combine our unique expertise, capabilities and resources with other local, state and federal agencies, our strength is unmatched."
The Surenos, also known as Sur 13, originated in Southern California and have hundreds of affiliated cliques across the United States. They pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia with the number 13, which signifies the letter 'M' for Mexican Mafia.
The gang is known for criminal activity including murder, extortion, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, and prostitution.
"Project Southbound is the largest-ever ICE operation targeting the Surenos gang," said ICE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas S. Winkowski. "This gang now has more than 30,000 members in the United States and its numbers are growing. Targeting transnational gangs like the Surenos is a top priority for ICE and we will continue to disrupt and dismantle the violence and criminal activities that they inflict upon our neighborhoods."
During the sweep, special agents also seized 54 firearms, 13.36 pounds of methamphetamine, 82.76 pounds of marijuana, 3.075 pounds of cocaine, 1.44 pounds of heroin, more than $166,000 in U.S. currency, and ten vehicles.