12 area gang members arrested in nationwide sweep
January 27, 2010 11:07 AM

Twelve alleged gang members in the Chicago area were arrested last week as part of a federal crackdown in 83 cities on gangs with ties to drug trafficking, U.S. immigration officials announced Wednesday.

Nationwide, 476 alleged gang members were arrested, officials said, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said in a telephone news conference from Washington.

Of the 12 arrested in Chicago, eight were in the country illegally and four were lawful permanent residents, officials said. All are eligible for deportation.

The three-day nationwide sweep, called "Project Big Freeze," targeted transnational gangs that have become an increasing presence in the U.S., particularly in areas of the country where Mexican drug cartels have gained a foothold in drug trafficking, officials said. Transnational gangs have also been involved in human smuggling, identity theft rings and arms trafficking, officials said.

"These aren't individuals that are involved in one-off criminal offenses," said John Morton, assistant secretary of Homeland Security in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, during the news conference. "These are sustained criminal operations. They're involved in drug dealing. They're involved in acts of violence. These are criminal organizations."

The crackdown included agents from the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and local law enforcement groups.

Arrests in Illinois occurred in Algonquin, Carpentersville, Elgin, Hanover Park, Palatine, Schaumburg, Streamwood, Vernon Hills and Waukegan, according to an ICE news release.

Among those detained was Jose Armando Hernandez-Morales, an alleged member of the Latin Kings gang who was previously deported in 2003 after serving time in prison for second-degree murder, officials said.