Illegal aCasitasa Closed in L.A.

An 18-month federal and local investigation into Los Angeles’ illegal underground bar scene has uncovered dozens of venues allegedly operated by the violent Latino 18th Street gang. These establishments, known as casitas, were operated inside private residences or shuttered businesses and apparently offered patrons drugs, gambling and prostitution alongside libations. Over the last month, police have raided as many as two dozen of the makeshift operations, arresting 34 gang members and associates and seizing 15 illegal firearms, $140,000 in assets, 18 gambling machines and 200 pounds of illegal fireworks.

The investigation, named Operation Treadstone, included operatives from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. According to authorities, bar-goers paid a fee to enter the illegal club and then were responsible for purchasing drinks and other illegal amenities from there. “These were bars operating in the wee hours, putting the community at risk,” LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese told the Los Angeles Times.

Authorities also noted that many of the clubs were hidden away in residential neighborhoods and the gangs used intimidation to influence the community against notifying the police. One casita was found to be operating just blocks from the 77th Street police station inside a closed tattoo parlor, and another three were found to be the scenes of homicides within the 77th station’s patrol area.

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