Federal gang operation nets 126 arrests in Fresno County, seizure of ghost gun

A federal gang enforcement operation led by U.S Marshals put 126 offenders behind bars during its three-month duration in Fresno County, officials announced Tuesday during a news conference at the federal courthouse.

Operation Triple Beam brought together local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and focused on disrupting and dismantling gangs by removing guns, drugs and cash — what Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Lasha Boyden called the three centers of gravity for gang activity.

In addition to the 126 gang members who were arrested, 137 field interviews were conducted of gang members and associates. More than $13,000 in cash and illegal drugs — marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin — were seized.

Five of those arrested are facing federal charges, said U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott, including one man who has seven prior gun convictions.

Sixty-one guns were taken off the streets, according to Fresno County Undersheriff John Zanoni, including a ghost gun, which had no serial number and could not be traced.

A confiscated “ghost” gun is laid out as evidence during a news conference to announce the arrest of 120 local gang members effort led by the U.S. Marshals Service at the Robert E. Coyle United States Courthouse in downtown Fresno on Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS

Zanoni said the gun was found during a traffic stop Sept. 20 across from McLane High School, where a football game was being played. He said ghost guns are usually ordered in pieces off the internet and then assembled.

Federal law does not outlaw the manufacture of the weapons, but since 2016, the California Department of Justice has required that anyone who plans to manufacture such a firearm first apply for a unique serial number.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, in his last week as chief before retiring, said the arrests were significant, and focused on the most violent, active gangs.

The operation was responsive, using real-time intelligence and information to target gang members who were committing crimes each week, said Fresno Police Lt. Steve Card, who is a commander for the Fresno Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium, or MAGEC.

About 50 to 60 law enforcement officers took part in the operation, which ran from July 1 to Sept. 30.

Since 2010, the U.S. Marshals Service has led over 80 gang dismantling operations in cities across the country, Boyden said.

Zanoni said that the influx of arrests had no negative impact on the jail, but could not say how many of the arrested still remain in custody.

Agencies that participated in Operation Triple Beam were: MAGEC; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Homeland Security; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the California Highway Patrol; the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office; the police departments of Fresno, Clovis and Selma; the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office; the U.S. Secret Service; the Drug Enforcement Administration; and the FBI.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPanoo
Related stories from Fresno Bee