Five people were in custody today but three others were being sought as part of a nearly two-year federal investigation into firearms and drug violations in the Hollywood and San Fernando Valley areas, authorities said.
The investigation, dubbed "Operation Hollywood Confidential," began in June 2010, and was conducted by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Agents began their probe after receiving information that some suspects were trafficking firearms, the ATF said in a statement. See the ATF's press release on the arrest here.
A confidential informant working undercover contacted a number of those suspects and bought narcotics and 13 illegal firearms in the San Fernando Valley, the ATF reported.
"ATF's number one priority is to combat violent crime by targeting the criminals that supply the tools of the trade and the violent offenders that plague our communities," Steven J. Bogdalek, ATF special agent in charge of the Los Angeles Field Division, said in a statement.
"This investigation disrupted several firearm trafficking suspects that were also supplying narcotics in the West Valley of Los Angeles," Bogdalek said.
Eight defendants were named in seven federal criminal indictments and charged with various crimes.
The following five were arrested:
-- Sandy Simpronio, 48, of Sunland, was arrested May 23. Simpronio is charged with distribution of methamphetamine, distribution of methamphetamine on premise where a minor is present, engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license, and felon in possession of a firearm.
-- Hayk Kazaryan, 31, of Burbank, was arrested Nov. 30, 2011. Kazaryan is charged with distribution of methamphetamine, felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of an unregistered firearm.
-- Jose Sandoval, 37, of Long Beach, was arrested Feb. 28. Sandoval is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.
-- Felix Lopez, 46, of North Hollywood, was arrested March 2, after being named in an indictment with Derrek Wilkerson, who remains at large. Lopez is charged with several counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine.
-- Raul Gamera, 49, of North Hollywood, was arrested May 23. Gamera is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The following three suspects remain at large, and warrants have been issued for their arrest:
-- Derrek Wilkerson, 43, of North Hollywood, who was named in the indictment with Felix Lopez. Wilkerson is charged with several counts of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine, as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
-- Boris Kuperman, 42, of North Hollywood, who is charged with distribution of methamphetamine and felon in possession of a firearm. And
-- Morgan Herrera, 60, of Colton, who is charged with distribution of methamphetamine.
The five defendants taken into custody have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial this summer.
The drug distribution charges alleged in the indictments carry a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five years and statutory maximum penalties of 40 years in federal prison. The charges of felon in possession of a firearm and felon in possession of ammunition carry a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
The investigation was led by ATF with assistance from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Probation Department.
The federal charges are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.