By Tamas Mondovics

A recent investigation initiated by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), which became known as Operation SURender, resulted in the arrest of five Sur 13 gang members adding new charges to two previously arrested members.

According to HCSO spokesperson Cristal Bemudez, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) investigation was launched by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Division (SID) unit in order to combat murders, violent crimes, firearms related crimes and the sale of illegal narcotics.

“The operation began last summer targeting members of the Sureños Criminal Street Gang, also known as Sur 13, prompting the investigation to be known as Operation SURrender,” Bemudez said, adding that the Sureños gang have continued to commit criminal gang-related acts and the arrest, prosecution and subsequent incarceration of these members will result in the disruption of organized illegal narcotics sales and violent crimes that have plagued the local community. “The ultimate objective of this operation, which parallels our agency’s mission statement, is to improve safety and return order and control to the law-abiding citizens of our community,” she said.

Charged with RICO violation and conspiracy to commit RICO, investigators arrested Ramiro Guerrero III, 22, Sebastian Guevara, 17, Macario Hernandez, 26, Eugeno Reyes, 20, and Cruz Vargas, 22.

Chris Manriquez, 21, is serving time in state prison for robbery with a deadly weapon, while Raul Rodriguez, 20, is serving time in the Hillsborough County jail. Both were also charged with a RICO violation and conspiracy to commit RICO.

Bemudez explained that the Sureños name, related to this investigation, is based off of the original southern California criminal street gang and said that like all criminal street gangs, the Sureños primary activity is criminal in nature.  “The Sureños have also utilized firearms during the commission of criminal acts such as Aggravated Assault, Robbery, Aggravated Battery and Homicide,” Bemudez said.

In the wake of Operation SURender, but in a separate investigation, HCSO detectives also arrested Sur 13 gang member Hipolito M. Varona, 21, of Gibsonton for armed robbery of an elderly person.

HCSO officials said that Richard Crone, Jr., 76, was at the Kween Kleen Laundromat located at 11024 US Hwy 41 S in Gibsonton when Varona approached him from behind and placed a knife to Crone’s throat, stealing an undisclosed amount of money before leaving the scene. Just two days after the robbery, detectives were able to identify Varona, who was arrested at his home in Gibsonton, without incident. For information, visit


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