* Corrected post; see the update on Page 2 about the federal grand jury indictment disclosing a woman found dead in Newport Beach on Labor Day sold drugs for the Mexican Mafia.
ORIGINAL POSTm SEPT. 25, 7 A.M.: Fifty-one suspected gang members were arrested, 23 fugitives were being sought and 129 cholos and their wives or girlfriends were indicted in a sweep Tuesday that sprang from a crackdown on Mexican Mafia inmates in Orange County Jail two years ago, according to a multi-agency task force.
About 1,000 officers from various local, state and federal agencies–armed with search warrants–took part in the “Operation Smokin' Aces” raids of about 70 Orange County addresses, according to the Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
Think back not to 2007, when Smokin' Aces hit theaters, but July of 2011, when authorities charged about 100 Mexican Mafia “shot callers” in jail as part of “Operation Black Flag.” Operation Smokin' Aces refers to “smoking out” members of Santa Ana's Aces gang on the outside.
Targeted were the alleged “street soldiers” as well as their wives and girlfriends who are accused of smuggling messages in and out of prison for the shot callers, according to Andre Birotte Jr., who heads the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles.
Some arrested had been named in Orange County grand jury indictments of 43 people for assaults and the attempted murder of 12 inmates in Orange County jails ordered by Mexican Mafia leaders, according to the Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who called it the largest state grand jury case in the county's history.
Three alleged gang members, who were not part of the indictments, were charged with murder for a hit ordered by the Mexican Mafia, Rackauckas told City News Service. Two fugitives wanted for that murder remain at large.
Also seized as part of the probe were 22 pounds of methamphetamine, 1.5 pounds of heroin, three pounds of cocaine, 38 handguns and 29 rifles, according to authorities.
A feud between two inmates trying to control Mexican Mafia operations in Orange County led first to Operation Black Flag, which later evolved to become Operation Smokin' Aces, according to authorities.
Law enforcement officers involved in the raids included members of the U.S. Attorney's Office, Orange County District Attorney's Office, the FBI, federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Internal Revenue Service, Santa Ana police, Orange County Sheriff's Department and state Department of Corrections.
UPDATE, SEPT. 25, 9:49 A.M.: The Daily Pilot uncovered an interesting twist in the federal grand jury indictment that's part of Operation Smokin' Aces: Nancy Hammour, the 28-year-old Santa Ana woman found dead under a bridge in Newport Beach on Labor Day, sold drugs for the Mexican Mafia.
The indictment reportedly indicates Hammour sold methamphetamine for a gang that operated in Orange County between March 2011 and June 2012, as well as to a police informant in February. She was also recorded on a phone ordering more drugs twice from an Operation Smokin' Aces defendant, according to the federal court document.
* After Hammour was identified as the woman found dead in Newport Beach earlier this month, her family indicated she was trying to turn her life around after battling with drugs. (Corrected paragraph; court records indicate she pleaded guilty in 2008 to misdemeanor prostitution and drunk driving charges.)
Jaime Rocha, who is being held on $1 million bail for allegedly murdering Hammour, was previously charged with gang-related crimes as far back as 1995, the Pilot reports. The Santa Ana 40-year-old has a court date connected to the murder on Friday.