Joining their brothers behind bars: Non-incarcerated prison-gang members arrested in crackdown sting

Officials say the 24 arrested suspects, accused of drug & gun trafficking, are known members of the notorious prison gang, The Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos.

SAN ANTONIO — Federal, state and local authorities launched a successful mission to crack down on violent crime, arresting 19 people associated with a prison gang.

On Tuesday, the 19 members of the Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos or the Brotherhood of Latin Gunman were taken into federal custody.

Authorities say an additional five other known HPL gang members were arrested days before.

The criminal organization operates both inside and outside of prison, federal officials said, the 24 suspects are accused of trafficking drugs and guns.

U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza for the Western District of Texas, announced the arrests in a press conference Thursday morning after an indictment was unsealed hours earlier.

“Today we are announcing the indictment of 24 alleged gang members and associates of Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos or Brotherhood of the Latin Gunmen in San Antonio. On Tuesday, our law enforcement partners at the FBI, DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, DPS, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Department, and San Antonio PD arrested 19 of 24 defendants associated with Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos,” said Esparza. “Five defendants have been in custody prior to the arrest, and prior to the operation earlier this week, including Antonio Rios Jr, who was placed in federal custody last September, charged with felon in possession of a firearm.”

Federal agents said the Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos or HPL is a notorious prison gang, known for trafficking drugs and guns.

Locked up leaders of the gang call the shots from behind bars, while members on the outside, or “free world,” according to officials, are smuggling and distributing large amounts of meth, cocaine and heroine.

Now, 24 non-incarcerated members of the HPL are joining their brothers in lock-up after being arrested on multiple charges.

Out of the 24 arrested, 22 are from San Antonio, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

One of those arrests includes, Daniel Natividad from Hebronville, the highest ranking HPL member in the “free world,” according to Esparza.

“Our investigation revealed that illegal drugs were smuggled into San Antonio from Mexico, then stored in stash houses of HPL members and businesses,” said Ben Post, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the DEA. “HPL has trafficked approximately 300kg of illegal drugs to include methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.

Several local, state and federal agencies teamed up for the takedown, including the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, San Antonio Police Department and Texas DPS.

Esparza said the crackdown leaves a gaping hole in the criminal enterprise, also connected to Mexican drug cartels.

“It’s a vicious cycle where the funds from the drugs go to purchase more firearms, which results in more violence,” said Post. “This is a significant impact on this organization, targeting these individuals that are outside the prison, in particular, because they’re the funding mechanism that includes funding to inside the prison.”

The team of law enforcement had a message to the criminals accused of unleashing violence and drugs on the streets of south Texas.

“We will come and get you and put handcuffs on you, and you can join them in jail,” said Aaron Tap, Special Agent in Charge FBI San Antonio. “It’s not going to happen on our streets.”

Esparza said the 24 arrested could be facing sentences of five years to the maximum life in prison.

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