Top Players in South L.A. Gang Controlled by Incarcerated Mexican Mafia Member Plead Guilty to Federal Racketeering Charges
LOS ANGELES – The “shotcaller” of a South Los Angeles street gang pleaded guilty today to federal racketeering and drug trafficking charges for his role in orchestrating the day-to-day activities of the gang that is controlled by an incarcerated member of the Mexican Mafia.
Today’s guilty pleas by Manuel Valencia come one week after the daughter of the Mexican Mafia member admitted to acting as her father’s voice to convey orders to the Harpys street gang.
The Harpys gang, which claims territory southwest of downtown Los Angeles and north of the University of Southern California, is one of more than a dozen Latino gangs across a wide swath of South Los Angeles controlled by Mexican Mafia member Danny Roman, who is serving a life-without-parole sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison and was not charged in the federal RICO case.
Roman’s daughter, Vianna Roman, 37, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty on May 1 to racketeering, narcotics and weapons offenses pursuant to a plea agreement that contemplates a sentence of approximately 20 years in federal prison but could lead to a life prison term if the sentencing judge determines this is appropriate. When she pleaded guilty, Vianna Roman admitted that she acted as a conduit for her father’s orders as he exercised control over the Harpys gang.
The shotcaller of the Harpys gang – the man who imposed the orders from Danny Roman – pleaded guilty today to violating the federal RICO statute and to engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise connected to drug trafficking. Manuel Valencia, 38, of Walnut, admitted that he oversaw and participated in gang activities, which included collecting “taxes” from drug dealers who were allowed to operate in gang territory, retaliating against people who ran afoul of the gang, and engaging in drug trafficking. Valencia, who as a result of his guilty pleas also faces a maximum of life in federal prison, agreed in his plea agreement to serve a 27-year prison term.
According to court documents, Vianna Roman and Valencia orchestrated a scheme that allowed Danny Roman to continue to continue to control the activities of the South Los Angeles street gangs from the Special Housing Unit of Pelican Bay State Prison. Vianna Roman used coded language to pass information to and received orders from her father during trips to the Pelican Bay prison in Northern California. Vianna Roman pass the orders to Valencia and other high-ranking members of Harpys, who oversaw violent conduct and drug trafficking within both Harpys territory and the broader area controlled by Danny Roman. Valencia controlled and enforced the collection of tax payments from Latino gangs under Danny Roman’s control and issued orders to other gangs regarding drug sales and the use of violence.
Vianna Roman and Valencia pleaded guilty before United States District Judge R. Gary Klausner, who is scheduled to sentence Roman on July 28 and Valencia on September 8.
With the guilty pleas of Vianna Roman and Valencia – and two others that were entered on Monday – a total of 24 defendants charged two years ago in a federal racketeering indictment have now pleaded guilty. Out of the 29 defendants named in the indictment, one is still pending trial, three are fugitives, and charges against one were dismissed following his conviction of first-degree murder in Los Angeles Superior Court.
According to court documents, Danny Roman oversaw gang activity by giving orders that directed gang members to engage in criminal conduct, including the murder of rival gang and Mexican Mafia members, and the extortion of businesses and gangs to generate income that was funneled back to Danny Roman in state prison. The Harpys gang collected taxes and other extortionate payments through threats of violence, including murder. Acting under Danny Roman’s authority, Vianna Roman and Valencia orchestrated the extortion of vendors at the Alameda Swap Meet, which is outside of Harpys territory but within the area controlled by Danny Roman. The Alameda Swap Meet was in territory controlled by the 38th Street gang, another gang under the control of Danny Roman.
In addition to outlining Danny Roman’s control of the Harpys and of other gangs in South Los Angeles, the indictment charged specific criminal acts, including the distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine and heroin; the murder of a gang member over a drug debt; robberies against residents and rival gang members; and conspiracies to commit murder, including a plot to kill a witness in a state court case against a member of another gang.
Two other defendants, who were scheduled to go on trial in two weeks, pleaded guilty on Monday.
Jaime Montano, 34, of Los Angeles, who is linked to the East Side Trece gang, pleaded guilty to two racketeering offenses that could send him to prison for as long as 30 years. In his plea agreement, Montano admitted leading a conspiracy to murder a man who testified at trial against another gang member.
Edgar Gonzalez, 30, also linked to the East Side Trece gang, pleaded guilty engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, admitting that he conducted Harpys business and represented Danny Roman while incarcerated in an Arizona state prison. Gonzalez faces up to 20 years in federal prison.
Montano and Gonzalez are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Klausner, respectively, on July 28 and August 4.
The investigation into members of the Harpys and the other street gangs was called Operation “Roman Empire” and was conducted by the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, which is comprised of officers with the Los Angeles Police Department and agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Release No. 14-055
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