SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Fifteen people arrested in a San Diego roundup of gang members and others pleaded not guilty in state court Monday to a variety of charges, including conspiracy to commit robbery, firearms and marijuana sales and domestic violence.
In a news conference Thursday, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said members of "a particularly volatile and violent" gang were rounded up that day by more than 500 law enforcement officers from numerous agencies, some to be prosecuted in federal court and some in state court.
Deputy District Attorney Sophia Roach said Monday that at least two people charged in state court have not been arrested and at least two others could be facing charges stemming from the investigation.
Roach said that not all of the defendants charged by her office are gang members.
On Friday, 17 men and two women made their initial appearances in federal court and were ordered to remain behind bars pending a detention hearing scheduled for Wednesday. The crimes they face include racketeering and various drug and weapons offenses, and they could face life in prison if convicted.
Another man, who prosecutors have labeled as "the lead defendant" in the case, went before a judge in Las Vegas and was also ordered to stay in custody. Randy Alton Graves, 50, of El Cajon, will be returned to San Diego for prosecution, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Authorities said the operation began as a drug investigation by El Cajon police. But after connections were made to other people and alleged crimes, it snowballed to include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI and the San Diego Police Department.
The gang was active in El Cajon, Spring Valley and the San Diego neighborhoods of Logan Heights and East San Diego, according to Duffy, who said the sweep netted 45 suspects.
Authorities said that during the sweep, they found handguns, sawed-off shotguns, rifles and ammunition. Duffy said the serial numbers and other identifying information on the firearms had been removed.
She said the officers who took part in the raids also discovered various types of drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars of counterfeit bills.
Some of the defendants were also allegedly involved in recent homicides, Duffy said. She said some of the murder victims were members or associates of the gang who were accused of cooperating with police or who criticized other killings.