An FBI and Santa Clara County Violent Gang Task Force investigation has resulted in the indictment of 24 alleged Nuestra Familia gang members and associates in San Jose.
"They were indicted on 34 counts, ranging from attempted murder to conspiracy to smuggle drugs and contraband into prisons and jails," said Marisa McKeown, Santa Clara County deputy district attorney.
"The gang had set up a street regiment in San Jose that conducted shootings, stabbings, witness intimidation and robbery. And, of course. it was fueled by the widespread trade of methamphetamine and drugs."
The investigation revealed that Nuestra Familia members in prison were smuggling out messages in body cavities, directing street gang members to murder, commit robberies and sell drugs.
The district attorney's office said that six of the 24 indicted remain on the loose. The defense attorney representing some of the Nuestra Familia defendants has not returned our phone call.
McKeown said the latest street regiment being charged came to San Jose to fill a void after the Santa Clara County grand jury indicted 48 Nuestra Familia members and associates in June 2013. Those members faced charges of attempted murder, murder and orchestrating a series of bank robberies in San Jose using guns and fake explosives.
McKeown said what is changing is that an increasing number of juveniles are being recruited in San Jose by Nuestra Familia to carry out murders, shootings and stabbings
"Minors 14, 15, 16 years old, using them to conduct violent assaults to prove themselves," said McKeown. "It's escalated to the point where the majority of our seriously violent crimes that are associated with these gangs are being committed by minors."
There are no juveniles included in the latest indictment targeting the Nuestra Familia leadership. Recent homicides -- including one allegedly committed by a juvenile -- will be handled separately.
Nuestra Familia, which means "our family," began in San Quentin and Folsom prisons in the 1960s, before expanding into Soledad and Pelican Bay state prisons. The extremely violent and sophisticated organization eventually spread to the streets of Santa Clara County,
McKeown said Nuestra Familia members became major drug traffickers, running extortion rings. In prison, Nuestra leaders ordered hits on the outside and controlled intraprison drug and sex trade, she said. The latest investigation has also revealed changes within the street operation.
"We are also seeing the resurgence of PCP, which we haven't seen in a very long time. Another thing we've seen is human trafficking. We see the gang is profiting from prostitution," said McKeown.
The digital world is also entering the Nuestra Familia organization, said McKeown. Identity theft operations, she said, have become more sophisticated with stolen and digitally skimmed credit cards and counterfeit money.