Federal Racketeering Indictment Leads to Arrests Tied to San Gabriel
JUN 9 --- (LOS ANGELES) – A joint federal-state law enforcement operation this morning led to the arrest of eight people linked to a San Gabriel Valley street gang who are charged in a federal racketeering and narcotics indictment that alleges the gang has engaged in violent crimes and methamphetamine trafficking that helped fund the Mexican Mafia.
Today’s arrests are the result of a 22-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on June 2, 2010. The indictment names 17 defendants, 16 of whom are charged under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. In addition to the RICO charges, the indictment alleges violent crimes in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, firearms violations and other offenses.
The federal indictment that led to this morning’s takedown focuses on Puente-13, a street gang that was formed in the City of La Puente approximately 60 years ago. Puente-13 claims as its turf a large portion of La Puente, as well as unincorporated parts of the San Gabriel Valley and portions of nearby cities such as Hacienda Heights, Walnut and West Covina. The gang is comprised of approximately 600 members and includes at least 14 subsets or “cliques.” Puente-13 is aligned with the Mexican Mafia, as indicted by the “13" in the gang's name, which references the 13th letter in the alphabet – the letter M. The indictment states that the gang is currently controlled by Mexican Mafia member Rafael Munoz Gonzalez.
Members of Puente-13 are involved in the distribution of narcotics, particularly methamphetamine, according to the indictment, which also alleges that leaders of the gang extort drug dealers by collecting “taxes,” the payment of which allows drug dealers to operate in gang-controlled territory.
The RICO conspiracy count in the indictment alleges a series of specific overt acts, including the murder of a rival gang member who was punished for collecting taxes on behalf of Gonzalez without Gonzalez’s knowledge, several stabbings designed to deter victims from cooperating with law enforcement, and numerous instances in which gang members possessed firearms and narcotics for sale.
“Violent drug gangs continue to wreak havoc within our communities,” said Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum. “Today’s arrests send the message that law enforcement will continue to work together to take back our neighborhoods and get violent drug traffickers and gangs off our streets.”
Four of the defendants in the federal racketeering case are eligible for the death penalty because of their involvement in the 2006 murder of the rival gang member who was collecting taxes without authorization. Those defendants are: Rafael Munoz Gonzalez, also known as Cisco, 40, of La Puente, the Mexican Mafia member who allegedly controls Puente-13; Cesar Munoz Gonzalez, also known as Blanco, 36, of Rowland Heights, Rafael Gonzalez’s brother and allegedly the Mexican Mafia member’s top lieutenant; Steven Nunez, also known as Flaco, 30, who currently a state prisoner; and Angel Frank Torres, also known as Smiley, 34, who is currently a state prisoner.
The remaining 13 defendants face either life without parole in federal prison or prison sentences of up to 20 years if they are convicted of the charges in the indictment.
Those taken into custody this morning will begin making their initial appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.
In addition to the eight arrested this morning, seven defendants were already in custody. Authorities are continuing to search for two defendants named in the RICO indictment – Adrian Rodriguez, also known as Trips, 25, of Huntington Park; and Henry Rick Zabala, 40, of La Puente.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
In addition to the agencies that conducted the investigation, several law enforcement agencies assisted in this morning's takedown, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the United States Marshals Service; the Pomona Police Department; the Baldwin Park Police Department; the La Verne Police Department; the Montebello Police Department; the El Monte Police Department; the Huntington Beach Police Department; the Gardena Police Department; the South Gate Police Department; and the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force (LA IMPACT).
An indictment is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.