Tampa, Florida -- The U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) says it has arrested 26 gang members and associates from the Tampa and Fort Myers areas as part of a national law enforcement operation.
The operation, called Project Southern Tempest, had ICE agents working side-by-side with federal, state and local law enforcement to apprehend members from gangs affiliated with drug trafficking organizations. ICE says a total of 678 people from 133 different gangs were arrested across 168 cities.
Of the 26 arrested in the Tampa Bay and Fort Myers areas, eight were residing in Tampa, five in Clearwater, four in Bradenton, three in Palmetto, one in Ruskin, one in Fort Myers and four in Hendry County.
The gang affiliations included MS-13, SUR-13, Brown Pride, Latin Kings, 15th Street, Gangster Disciples and the Notorious Blood Gangsters.
Among those arrested locally were:
- A 22-year-old Mexican national and member of the SUR 13 gang, residing in Tampa, who has previous convictions for simple battery, battery/family violence and cruelty toward a child and driving under the influence. The individual also re-entered the country after deportation, a federal crime which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
- A 25-year-old Mexican national and member of the SUR 13 gang, residing in LaBelle, Fla., in Hendry County, with previous convictions for marijuana possession and distribution, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, felony battery, DUI and illegal entry. The individual also re-entered the country after deportation, a federal crime which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
"Project Southern Tempest is the largest ever ICE-led gang enforcement operation targeting gangs with ties to drug trafficking organizations," ICE Director John Morton said in a press release. "Through gang enforcement operations like Project Southern Tempest and Project Big Freeze last year, ICE will continue to disrupt and dismantle these transnational gangs and rid our streets not only of drug dealers, but the violence associated with the drug trade."
Of the 678 people arrested, 447 were charged with criminal offenses, 231 were administrative arrests, 322 had violent criminal histories and 421 were foreign nationals.
In addition to the 678 arrests, 164 individuals were also arrested for federal and/or state criminal violations, or administrative immigration violations.
Those arrested came from 24 countries in South and Central America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Of the total number of arrested, 776 were males and 72 were females.
During the operation, agents seized 86 firearms, eight pounds of methamphetamine, 30 pounds of marijuana, one pound of cocaine, more than $70,000 in U.S currency and two vehicles.
10 News and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement