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PORTERVILLE--California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today joined the Porterville Police Department in announcing a major takedown of the Varrio Central Poros, a brutal criminal street gang that has “terrorized” the City of Porterville for years.
“Gang activity has infested the streets of Porterville and terrorized the city,” Attorney General Brown said. “In response to the rising threat of violence, the California Department of Justice deployed Special Agents to work alongside the police department in cracking down on the Varrio Central Poros and bringing its members to justice. We have seized dozens of dangerous weapons and drugs, effectively draining this gang of its lifeblood.”
Today, the California Department of Justice and the Porterville Police Department, with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, served 23 search warrants and 21 arrest warrants on the criminal hierarchy of the Varrio Central Poros. They made 17 arrests. Agents seized cocaine, meth, and marijuana during today’s takedown. They also seized weapons and ammunition for an AK47.
During the investigation which led to today’s arrests, agents conducted 94 surveillances, arrested 31 suspects and conducted 266 field interviews regarding the gang’s criminal activities. Approximately 18 search warrants were issued and 16 court orders were served. Gang members were also arrested for cocaine possession, carrying loaded firearms, and false imprisonment.
Agents seized 24 grams of meth, 56 grams of marijuana, 34 grams of cocaine, and 62 grams of heroin during the course of the investigation.
The Varrio Central Poros were involved in narcotics trafficking and distribution throughout Tulare County. Investigators found that they used proceeds from drug sales to post bail for fellow gang members and purchase dangerous weapons including rifles, shotguns and several handguns.
The Varrio Central Poros investigation began in October 2007 following a spate of gang-related homicides and violent crimes in Porterville, a town with a population of 51,000. From May 2006 to October 2007, the police department reported 17 homicides in the city, 13 of them gang-related and an increase in drive-by shootings. The violence reached a peak in October 2007 when the city reported 12 shootings within a 5-week period. The gang targeted rivals in the town and often their own members for execution if they were thought to be disloyal.
At the request of Porterville Police Chief Chuck McMillan, California Attorney General Brown dispatched 75 agents of the Department of Justice’s Gang Suppression Enforcement Team to Porterville in November 2007 to crack down on the gang. The State Department of Justice joined with the Porterville Police Department, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, the Lindsay Police Department, and other law enforcement agencies throughout the central San Joaquin Valley.
“This is the finest example of law enforcement agencies pooling their resources to combat the common problem of gang activity,” said Porterville Police Chief Chuck McMillan.
The California Department of Justice assists local law enforcement when gang problems have become so severe that the crime is bleeding into neighboring jurisdictions. State agents have recently shut down a Nortenos street gang and a violent Cambodian street gang in Stockton, and a Sureño gang in Atwater. Brown’s special agents have also participated in recent crime crackdowns in East Palo Alto and Oakland.
The Varrio Central Poros organized themselves in the early 1990’s, originally known as Porterville’s Most Dangerous. The gang is affiliated with the notorious northern California prison gang Nuestra Familia and the Northern Structure prison gang. Nuestra Familia, a rival of the Mexican Mafia, was organized in Folsom State Prison in 1968 and operates primarily in the northern parts of California. There are approximately 120 Varrio Central Poros gang members in Porterville, ranging in age from 12 to 40 years.
The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the gang members arrested today. The suspects face various felony charges including murder, narcotics trafficking, carjacking, conspiracy to commit murder and assault with a deadly weapon.
The Porterville Police Department will use every lawfully available tactic to extract information from arrestees about recent gang related homicides, shootings and other criminal activities.