18 MONTHS OF WORK, WATCHING PAID OFF.Byline: Greg Botonis Staff Writer
LANCASTER - Operation Silent Thunder started nearly two years ago with a vague tip from a street informant informant Historian Medtalk A person who provides a medical history about a large-scale methamphetamine ring being run out of the Antelope Valley This article is about the Los Angeles County region. For the census-designated place in Wyoming, see Antelope Valley-Crestview, Wyoming.
The Antelope Valley .
With help from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was established in 1973 by President richard m. nixon as part of the Justice Department, thus uniting a number of federal drug agencies that had often worked at cross-purposes. , telephone wiretaps and hidden cameras, detectives eventually uncovered a network of white supremacists white supremacist
One who believes that white people are racially superior to others and should therefore dominate society.
white supremacy n.
Noun 1. and outlaw bikers with drug dealings extending into seven states.
``This was a very large, very well-organized operation,'' sheriff's Lt. Ron Shreves of the Lancaster sheriff's station said of the multijurisdictional investigation. ``It had a lot of smaller parts that all fit together.''
The original tip was almost too vague to pursue, detectives said, but an Antelope Valley man arrested on another charge ended up providing more information.
``It became apparent that the size of this operation was too large and complex for local resources,'' Shreves said.
Local detectives called in the DEA DEA - Data Encryption Algorithm for assistance. By April 2000, federal agents were providing surveillance equipment, additional manpower and jurisdiction to bring federal indictments and seek court orders for telephone wiretaps.
The main detectives worked not out of the Lancaster sheriff's station but from three undercover ``safe houses'' to avoid leaks about the existence of the investigation.
``We had to move them where they could work without being worried about being overheard on the phone. It was all being done very covertly and it worked very well,'' Shreves said.
Surveillance crews spent hours sitting in a van and hiding in bushes - in freezing weather in the winter and scorching scorch
v. scorched, scorch·ing, scorch·es
1. To burn superficially so as to discolor or damage the texture of. See Synonyms at burn1.
2. temperatures in the summer.
Inside the van, they listened to suspects talking on 34 wiretaps and watched images from four cameras hidden outside suspects' homes - just like in the movies.
Informants were used to buy drugs.
Often, detectives would get called out in the middle of the night or on days off because drug traffickers Noun 1. drug trafficker - an unlicensed dealer in illegal drugs
drug dealer, drug peddler, peddler, pusher
criminal, crook, felon, malefactor, outlaw - someone who has committed a crime or has been legally convicted of a crime don't work from 8 to 5.
``A lot of times (the detectives) get called away from their family barbecue to watch another guy at his family barbecue,'' sheriff's Detective Darren Hager said.
While the covert detective work was going on, deputies were also making arrests of lower-level suspects. Detectives would send patrol cars to stop drug couriers for traffic violations, so as not to tip off the ringleaders.
Over the months, the investigation involved some 150 officers directly, and another 100 peripherally. They included FBI and DEA agents, sheriff's deputies, Los Angeles Los Angeles (lôs ăn`jələs, lŏs, ăn`jəlēz'), city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. police officers, state parole agents and county probation officers probation officer
1. An official usually attached to a juvenile court and charged with the care of juvenile delinquents.
2. An official charged with supervising convicts at large on suspended sentence or probation. .
Sheriff's Crime Analyst Laura Bettencourt developed a chart linking various suspects to one another and found six distinct groups, headed by people purported to have white supremacist ideologies.
The groups were interlocked by business dealings, including selling chemical components to each other, transporting and selling the finished product to or for each other.
Her chart shows that suspects had ties to groups including the Nazi Low Riders, the Peckerwoods, Supreme White Power, all prison gangs and the Vagos motorcycle gang.