767 arrested in 'Project Nefarious'

Federal agents and other law-enforcement officers arrested hundreds of people in or associated with transnational gangs in April as part of an international operation to combat human smuggling and trafficking.

The crackdown, referred to as "Project Nefarious," resulted in 767 arrests in 49 states and 25 in Honduras made April 9-21, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced last week.

More than 600 of those arrested were gang members or associates. Nearly half of those detained were from other countries, the ICE said. Ten people arrested were wanted for murder.

Authorities made arrests for both criminal and immigration-law violations. Of the nearly 600 people apprehended on criminal charges, slightly more than 80 percent were gang members or associates. Of the nearly 200 people arrested for immigration-law violations, fewer than 20 percent were not involved in gangs, an ICE spokeswoman said.

Almost 100 people were arrested on criminal charges in Los Angeles — more than in any other city, according to ICE data. Chicago led in arrests related to immigration violations with 23.

Project Nefarious came about as the result of a 2011 report by the Justice Department indicating greater gang involvement in human smuggling and trafficking.

ICE reported that transnational gangs are frequently involved in a range of illegal activities. Among them: drug smuggling and distribution; identity theft and benefit fraud; money-laundering and bulk cash smuggling; weapons smuggling and arms trafficking; cyber crimes; export violations; and other crimes related to the border.

In addition to the arrests, authorities seized 52 firearms, nearly 5,500 pounds of marijuana, almost 7 pounds of cocaine, more than $200,000, and 14 vehicles.