HOUSTON - Nearly a dozen gang members are off the streets after a big federal crackdown that spanned from Houston to South Texas.
The arrests and indictments are the result of a three-year investigation by federal investigators and local police. Their target was Raza Unida, a gang born in the Texas prison system.
Federal agents raided the north Houston home of 28-year-old Gilberto Espinosa on Thursday. Espinosa lived in the home with his family, including two young children.
Espinosa and three other men were brought in handcuffs to the federal courthouse. All of them have been accused of being part of the Raza Unida's dangerous and profitable drug operation.
Espinosa's neighbors found the charges difficult to believe. They say he was friendly and helpful when cleaning up the neighborhood after Hurricane Ike.
"You really don't expect it to be your neighbor," said Miguel, who lives by Espinosa. "I've seen the guy, a few of his friends and I guess his girlfriend. And he had a kid. I've seen them have barbecues out there and they didn't seem like bad guys."
The Mexican gang is identified in and out of prison by tattoos. The Department of Justice says the organization is a major provider of powdered and crack cocaine throughout Texas.
Prosecutors say since 2007, the gang has packaged and sold cocaine and methamphetamines from houses, apartments and hotel rooms.
From Houston to McAllen, agents arrested a total of 11 alleged gang members. Agents also seized nine firearms and a vehicle that had a hidden compartment with traces of narcotics.
But they are still looking for one more gang member: Henry Garcia.
Garcia, known on the street as Shorty, was last thought to be living in Victoria, Texas.
If you have any information, please call the Houston Office of the FBI.
Meanwhile, the other suspects are being held in jail and face anywhere from 10 years to life in prison.