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ILLEGAL ALIEN'S GANG MEMBERSHIP GETS HIM DEPORTED

A 22-year-old illegal alien from Mexico who assaulted his girlfriend last fall in Albion found himself deported last week after federal officials learned he was involved in a violent criminal gang, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials reported.

Samir Hernandez-Sanchez admitted to federal authorities that he was a member of the "Vatos Locos Por Siempre" street gang in Mexico after an officer noticed a "VLP" tattoo on Sanchez during an interview at the Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, officials said.

The gang name loosely translates to "Crazy Homies for Always."

"(Sanchez) was referred to ICE's detention and removal because he was an illegal alien," said Peter J. Smith, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs' Buffalo office.

Sanchez was first arrested in November by local police in Orleans County for assaulting his girlfriend and breaking a window at her apartment. He was then turned over to federal authorities after it was learned he was a Mexican citizen with a criminal record.

He spent the time since his arrest at the federal facility in Batavia prior to his deportation March 28.

During a processing interview, an agent picked up on Sanchez's "VLP" tattoo on his left hand and questioned him about it. Sanchez, whose criminal history included two prior assault convictions, explained the tattoo's meaning and said other gang members had similar markings.

He admitted his gang was involved in using and selling drugs, officials said.

"(Sanchez) had a history of criminal behavior and gang activity, making him a prime target for removal," said William Cleary, ICE's Detention and Removal Operations field office director for Buffalo.

Stepped up anti-gang enforcement efforts by immigration agents dubbed "Operation Community Shield" went into effect in March. The initiative primarily targets violent street gangs in six cities and helps expedite the deportation of illegal aliens who are gang members.

Last month, ICE agents rounded up 103 members of the violent street gang Mara Salvatrucha, 13 in more than a half-dozen U.S. cities.

e-mail: tpignataro@buffnews.com

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