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US strikes devastating blow on Mexican mafia after 85 arrested as part of "Operation Scarecrow" in California

A 2016 murder in San Juan Capistrano sparked a wider probe; Orange County authorities were able to recover 14 pounds of methamphetamine, three pounds of heroin and 36 firearms.
UPDATED JAN 23, 2020
(Source: Getty Images)
(Source: Getty Images)

On Wednesday, the Mexican Mafia sustained a massive blow in their operations in Orange County, California. Officials said that a major crackdown led to 85 arrests of "middle management" gang leaders belonging to the mafia. The operation grew out of the investigation into a fatal shooting that occurred on Christmas morning 2016 in Avenida Cabrillo.

While the original murder remains unsolved, Orange County Undersheriff Don Barnes said that the three-month investigation called "Operation Scarecrow" conducted by law enforcement was one of the largest crackdowns in the county's history, reported NBC Los Angeles.

The report said that authorities were able to recover 14 pounds of methamphetamine, three pounds of heroin and 36 firearms.

The OC Breeze reported that the said investigation was also the largest operation against mafia activities in California this year.

The authorities said that "Operation Scarecrow" was named after a Mexican Mafia boss who had the street name "Crow".

Officials told NBC4 that many women called "secretaries" were arrested for carrying out orders from jail inmates out to the streets.

According to the report, the main target of the operation was the Surenos street gang and its illegal activities directed by the Mexican mafia, reported Fox News.

“We will continue to hold accountable those who terrorize our communities and jeopardize our public safety,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said. “All families in California deserve to know that their loved ones, especially their children, are safe.”

The Orange County Sheriff's Department coordinated with the California Department of Justice and the California Highway Patrol in the joint operation, Becerra said.

"The intelligence gathered helped us to prevent a number of crimes, including an attempted murder," Becerra told reporters.

“The success of this operation highlights the importance of collaborative partnerships amongst law enforcement agencies,” Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said in a statement.

“The shared communication amongst our respective agencies have resulted in the removal of significant threats from our community. My hope is that these actions will send a message to criminal gangs that you are not welcome in Orange County," she added.

The report also said that the criminals have been collectively charged in 31 cases in Orange County and two in Los Angeles with conspiracy, fraud, criminal gang enhancements, weapons and drug violations.

But the arrests were seemingly just a "drop in the bucket" as compared to the mafia's “mass control over street gangs statewide,” Barnes said.

“We share this information not to scare the public but to remind the residents of Orange County that this is a reality we face,” he said. “Criminal gang enterprises still continue to prey upon our community and we have to do everything we can to fight back.” He also said he expected the Christmas Day 2016 murder to be "solved soon.''

Two years ago, Peter Ojeda, the Orange County Mexican Mafia boss was sentenced to prison for continuing to call the shots to run his gang from behind bars. However, Barnes says he's sure that Ojeda still has a massive influence in the region.

Authorities said that most of the arrested suspects are gang members of a local branch that operates under the umbrella of the Mexican Mafia which boasts a strength of hundreds in the Southland region.