A high-ranking Nuestra Familia gang leader from Salinas was arrested this week in an FBI takedown of one of the gang's largest street regiments, federal officials said.
Alberto Larez, 45, known in Salinas as "Bird," was taken into custody Thursday morning at his residence in Red Bluff, a small town south of Redding. Federal agents also arrested 17 alleged members of the gang's Sacramento regiment, including Vidal "Spider" Fabela, 45, another gang member well-known to law enforcement.
"Removing dangerous drugs and violent criminals from our neighborhoods is essential to ensure a bright future for our families," said Herbert M. Brown, special agent in charge of the Sacramento Division of the FBI. "Takedowns such as these demonstrate that the FBI and its task force partners are committed to disrupting violent gang activity and improving the quality of life in our communities."
Larez was one of two high-ranking Nuestra Familia captains who were released from federal prison in 2010. He and Henry "Happy" Cervantes, 48, both faced life sentences in the FBI's sweeping Operation Black Widow conspiracy case in 2000.
Instead, they received 10-year sentences in a plea deal negotiated by the gang's leaders after problems surfaced with case's star witness and his role in a murder at Cap's Saloon in Salinas.
Since then, law enforcement officials feared that when Larez and Cervantes were released from prison in 2010, they were given marching orders by the generals, who
Those orders, police said, included re-taking control of the gang's diminished street regiments.
Police say the gang has been undergoing an internal power struggle because one group of leaders was sent to federal prison in Colorado after Black Widow, while a newer group of leaders in Pelican Bay is trying to exert its control over cities like Salinas.
Larez and those arrested in last week's raid all answer to the Colorado generals, federal officials said.
Cervantes was arrested late last year and charged with murder in the stabbing deaths of two men found in a burning Oakland apartment.
In addition to the arrests, FBI officials said Thursday's operation involved the seizure of drugs, cash and vehicles, including about 25 pounds of methamphetamine, 40 pounds of marijuana, and cocaine, heroin and oxycontin; about $35,000 in cash; 12 cars, including luxury brands such as Lexus and Cadillac; and about 30 weapons as well as ammunition.
Julia Reynolds can be reached at 648-1187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.