13 parolees arrested during multi-agency Merced operation
By Don Chaddock, InsideCDCR editor
A recent gang sweep in Merced County had been in the planning stages for months, with the Division of Adult Parole Operations (DAPO) heavily involved in the lead-up investigation.
For over two years, Merced County experienced a surge in violent crimes and murders. Authorities suspected the Nuestra Familia state prison gang was calling the shots from inside prison walls so they enlisted the help of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Merced County District Attorney called it the bloodiest two years in the county’s history, with more than 60 homicides.
Marvin Speed, Capitol District Parole Administrator, said DAPO became involved early on when Merced County authorities were assembling a team.
“Basically, this whole operation came about because they were having increased gang activity,” Speed said. “The California Department of Justice and the county District Attorney’s office wanted a multiple agency task force. There were four main objectives – identify gang members in the county, dismantle their sources of income, disable recruiters and disrupt gang communications.”
He said the bulk of the investigation was intelligence gathering and sharing between agencies.
“Right before the operations, they had 50 search warrants issued,” he said.
There were 13 parolees arrested on charges ranging from attempted murder and conspiracy to weapons and parole violations, Administrator Speed said. Another person, already in custody in a state prison, is facing additional charges resulting from the investigation.
He said Agent James Rochester, from the Merced Parole Unit, was instrumental in the operation. The acting Delta District Administrator, Peter Bedrosian, was the managerial link in charge of the parole agents and responsible for coordinating with Region, Speed said.
“Agent Rochester was very pivotal in the whole process and months of investigation,” he said.
Others involved on the day of the operation were Merced Unit Supervisor Sylvia Rodriguez, Assistant Unit Supervisor Ellen Salas, Agent Emmanuel Becerra, Agent Reynaldo Morelos and Agent Donna Kniess.
“There were two things going on here. There were the Nortenos out on the street fighting with the Crips and the Nuestra Familia, from inside prison (using contraband cell phones), were pushing their guys on the street to assault and kill (gang) drop-outs.”