8 primarily Haitian gangs dismantled in FL

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NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Eight primarily Haitian gangs have been dismantled in South Florida after a 17-month investigation, authorities said Friday. "Operation Dead End" targeted violent drug traffickers in North Miami Beach.

Information from the probe into the January 2008 slaying of Miami police Detective James Walker in North Miami Beach aided the undercover local and federal law enforcement officers in their investigation, Police Chief Rafael Hernandez Jr. said. Walker was shot by gang members with a semiautomatic rifle, authorities said. That investigation continues.

"We've received a lot of complaints about gang problems in our city," Hernandez said.

Thirteen gang members and their associates face federal armed robbery, drugs and weapons charges. If convicted, they potentially face decades in prison.

Another 23 will be prosecuted by the Miami State Attorney's Office. Seventeen others arrested in this week's sweep will be processed for immigration violations or charges in other crimes, authorities said.

The defendants range from street-level dealers to large drug suppliers, Hernandez said.

He held up a picture showing a poster for the gangster film "Scarface" that greeted investigators making their first arrest in the sweep that began Wednesday.

"This is the kind of mentality these gang members have. This is their idol," Hernandez said.

Investigators also seized six handguns, ammunition that could pierce an officer's protective vest and various amounts of powder and crack cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy.

Hernandez declined to identify the gangs targeted by the investigation. Police Maj. Kathy Katerman said they were "primarily Haitian."

Many gangs in South Florida have ties to gangs based in Central America and the Caribbean, said Anthony Mangione, special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Miami.

Their members may be legal U.S. residents, but that status can be revoked and they may face deportation, he said.

"We can review people's status, and we can continue to place lawful permanent residents convicted in crimes involving moral turpitude into removal proceedings," Mangione said.

Original story BY Jennifer Kay, Associated Press Writer

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