JUL 30 (LOS ANGELES) – More than 400 law enforcement officers this morning conducted an operation that led to the arrest of 17 members and associates of the El Monte Flores gang, an organization that takes direction from the Mexican Mafia prison gang and controls criminal activity in the cities of El Monte and South El Monte.
Those taken into custody today are among 41 defendants named in a 167-page federal racketeering indictment alleging the commission of various crimes by members of El Monte Flores, including acts of violence (ranging from battery to murder), drug trafficking offenses, robbery, burglary, carjacking, witness intimidation, kidnapping, weapons trafficking, credit card fraud, identity theft, and hate crimes directed against African-Americans who might reside in El Monte and South El Monte. The indictment alleges several incidents dating back to early 2001 in which African-American victims in El Monte were attacked, threatened, and subjected to racial epithets.
Other gang-related crimes are outlined in the 62-count indictment, including the execution of a former Mexican Mafia member and the fatal shooting of four others in an El Monte residence in 1995. The indictment also outlines an ongoing dispute involving members of the Mexican Mafia. One Mexican Mafia member – James “Chemo” Gutierrez, currently in federal custody, is the lead defendant in the indictment. Other Mexican Mafia members serving life prison terms are not charged in the indictment, but are listed as co-conspirators.
The gang maintains a significant presence at the Boys & Girls Club of America – San Gabriel Valley Club, where gang members openly sold drugs, held gang meetings and even held a car wash fundraiser.
According to the indictment, El Monte Flores operated as a criminal enterprise that used violence and intimidation to exercise authority in the areas it claimed. The multi-generational gang was formed in the 1960s, and since then it has controlled the drug trade in El Monte and South El Monte. Members of the gang also regularly used and threatened to use violence to extort “taxes” from other drug traffickers.
The defendants named in the federal indictment face various charges, including conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity in violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act; violent crimes in aid of racketeering; conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute controlled substances; using a firearm in relation to a crime of violence or drug trafficking; weapons charges; conspiracy to launder money; and being an illegal alien after previously being deported.
Those taken into custody today are expected to be arraigned in United States District Court.
If convicted, all of the defendants would face up to 20 years for the RICO and potentially decades more depending on which additional offenses they are charged with. One defendant – Johnny Mata, 33, of Baldwin Park, California – faces a potential death penalty if he is convicted for the slaying of a rival gang member in Baldwin Park on Christmas Eve in 2010.
Out of the 41 defendants named in the federal indictment, 17 were arrested this morning. Fifteen defendants were already in custody. Authorities are continuing to search for nine defendants.
The investigation into the El Monte Flores gang was conducted by a task force that included the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; IRS – Criminal Investigation Division; and the El Monte Police DepartmentIn addition, several agencies provided substantial assistance during this morning’s takedown, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Irvine Police Department, the Covina Police Department, the Montebello Police Department, the Azusa Police Department, the Baldwin Park Police Department, the United States Marshals Service, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.