U.S. Department of Justice|
Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California
United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2005
For Information, Contact Public Affairs|
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947
Los Angeles, CA - Nine members of a Santa Ana street gang were arrested this morning on federal racketeering charges that accuse them of distributing narcotics, engaging in extortion and plotting to kill rivals who dared to attack members of their gang. In addition to the nine taken into custody today, two remaining defendants are already in state custody.
According to the indictment, members of the gang distributed drugs, including crack cocaine and methamphetamine, and "taxed" other drug dealers operating on the gang's claimed turf.
The case against the West Myrtle gang members was announced at a press conference this morning by United States Attorney Debra Wong Yang, FBI Assistant Director in Charge Richard T. Garcia, Santa Ana Police Chief Paul M. Walters, California Department of Corrections Assistant Director Richard Rimmer and Michael Bukovac, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. At this morning's press conference, these officials also announced the takedown of another criminal enterprise, the Ojeda Organization, which allegedly controlled and taxed Hispanic street gangs such as West Myrtle across Orange County.
Seven of the gang members were charged with violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which is commonly called RICO. The RICO charge alleges a series of predicate acts perpetrated to further and expand the power of the gang. The predicate acts include murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to extort outside drug dealers who were allowed to operate on West Myrtle turf in exchange for paying "taxes."
Those named in the RICO charge are:
- Octavio Valenzuela, 30, of Costa Mesa, who allegedly was the leader of West Myrtle; - Francisco Rodriguez, 20, of Santa Ana;
- Eddie Armenta, 23, of Santa Ana;
- Rogelio Cardenas, 21, of Garden Grove;
- Juan Holguin, 20, of Santa Ana;
- Francisco Amaya, 20, of Santa Ana; and
- Mario Jimenez, 37, of Santa Ana.
Rodriguez, Holguin, Cardenas, Amaya and Armenta are accused of participating in a murder, which means that if convicted of the RICO charge they face a prison sentence of life without parole. Valenzuela and Jimenez, if convicted, face up to 20 years in prison for this RICO count.
The second count in the indictment alleges that the seven named above and another four conspired to commit racketeering activities during 2003 and 2004, again in violation of the RICO statute. This count alleges a series of acts in which the defendants possessed and distributed narcotics, as well as conducted planning sessions to plot the murder of rival gang members who killed a member of the West Myrtle gang. This RICO conspiracy count also alleges that several West Myrtle members killed a man they believed to be a rival gang member.
In addition to the seven charged in the first RICO count, the grand jury indicted four other alleged gang members with conspiring to violate RICO. They are:
- Manuel Torres, 27, of Santa Ana;
- Arnulfo Torres, 28, of Santa Ana;
- Jaime Flores, 20, of Santa Ana; and
- Jose Garcia, 23, of Anaheim.
The 22-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on May 18 and unsealed this morning goes on the allege that various members of the gang committed violent crimes in aid of racketeering (VICAR), including murder, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and extortion; used a firearm in a crime of violence (murder); and trafficked in narcotics, including cocaine and cocaine base (crack). Rodriguez, Holguin, Cardenas, Amaya and Armenta are charged in a VICAR count related to the same murder alleged in the first RICO charge; however, the VICAR count carries a potential death sentence.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The nine defendants arrested in this morning are scheduled to make their initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court in Santa Ana.
This case is the product of a two-year investigation by the Santa Ana Gang Task Force, which is made up of officers from the Santa Ana Police Department; special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and investigators with the California Department of Corrections.
Release No. 05-094
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