Department of Justice seal 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
Release No. 06-116

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947

FEDERAL RACKETEERING/NARCOTICS INDICTMENT TARGETS TWO 'CLIQUES' OF 18th STREET GANG THAT CONTROLLED NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING IN AREAS NEAR DOWNTOWN L.A.


Los Angeles, CA - Federal and local authorities this morning arrested 10 members and associates of two powerful "cliques" of the notorious 18th Street Gang on federal racketeering and narcotics charges that allege the gangmembers used violence and intimidation to control the narcotics trade in the Mid-Wilshire, Koreatown, Pico-Union and MacArthur Park areas of Los Angeles.

A 17-count indictment alleges that the two 18th Street cliques the Shatto Park Locos (SPLS) and the Hoover Locos (HVLS) operated under the authority of Mexican Mafia member Ruben Castro, who allegedly controlled the gangmembers from inside a federal penitentiary in Colorado with the help of his girlfriend, who exercised his authority on the streets.

The indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on July 26 and unsealed this morning, charges Castro and 10 leaders of the SPLS and the HVLS with conspiring to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, commonly called RICO. The indictment also charges these 11 defendants, along with seven others who allegedly supplied narcotics or dealt drugs on behalf of the SPLS and the HVLS, with participating in drug trafficking conspiracies.

The indictment and this morning's arrests were announced at a press conference today by Chief Assistant United States Attorney George S. Cardona, FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert B. Loosle, Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Gary Brennan and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.

The indictment is the product of a cooperative effort by federal and local law enforcement to identify and prosecute the leaders and members of violent, criminal street gangs such as the SPLS and the HVLS. The fight against such gangs is one of the priorities of the Justice Department, with federal investigative and legal tools being brought to assist local law enforcement to dismantle these gangs.

The investigation into the SPLS and HVLS was conducted by the Safe Streets Task Force. FBI agents and LAPD officers utilized undercover surveillance, confidential witnesses, court-authorized wiretaps and the execution of search warrants to obtain a comprehensive view of the inner workings of the SPLS and the HVLS.

"This case is the latest example of the use of the federal RICO statutes to prosecute the top leaders of organized prison and street gangs," said Chief Assistant United States Attorney George S. Cardona. "The use of RICO charges is part of the anti-gang strategy in place in this district. That strategy also includes the use against gang members of federal firearms and narcotics laws, and the use of federal money laundering statutes to interdict transfers of illegal proceeds derived from gang activity. It also includes funding for prevention and intervention efforts."

According to the indictment, the SPLS and HVLS cliques of the 18th Street Gang operate as a criminal enterprise, with Mexican Mafia member Ruben Castro functioning as the leader of both cliques. The SPLS and HVLS are run by "shot callers" selected by Castro, who ensure that drug distribution operations are properly managed and that a portion of money generated by drug trafficking "rent" is funneled to Castro. Lower-level gang members coordinate drug-trafficking activities in given territories, selecting drug suppliers and dealers who are given exclusive authority to sell drugs in these territories. In exchange for protection, the drug suppliers and dealers are required to pay rent a percentage of all drug proceeds to the SPLS and HVLS. Failure to pay rent to the SPLS and HVLS and, similarly, the failure of the gangs to timely pay rent to Castro, would be dealt with through the imposition of fines and other penalties, including acts of violence.

The 10 arrested and expected to appear in United States District Court this afternoon are:

Mervin Nelson Sanchez, also known as "Chivo," 35, of Ontario. Sanchez is charged with participating in the RICO Conspiracy and the SPLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy. The indictment alleges that Sanchez was an SPLS shot-caller and was responsible for controlling virtually all aspects of the SPLS's business operations.

Araceli Bravo, also known as "Traviesa," 33, of Los Angeles. Bravo is charged with participating in the RICO Conspiracy and the HVLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy. The indictment alleges that Bravo served as a shot-caller for the HVLS and was responsible for virtually all aspects of the HVLS's business operations.

Michael Pineda, also known as "Mousie," 28, of North Hollywood. Pineda is charged with participating in the RICO Conspiracy and the HVLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy. The indictment alleges that Pineda was an HVLS shot-caller.

Jose Juan Alvarez, also known as "Wicked," 29, of Los Angeles. Alvarez is charged with participating in the RICO Conspiracy and the SPLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy. The indictment alleges that Alvarez was an SPLS member who assisted in overseeing drug distribution and rent collection.

Efrain Ruiz Torres, also known as "Dandy Boy," 34, of Temple City. Torres is charged with participating in the RICO Conspiracy and the SPLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy, as well as being a felon in possession of a firearm. The indictment alleges that Torres was an SPLS member who supplied firearms to other SPLS members, relayed information to incarcerated SPLS members, and distributed narcotics in SPLS territory.

Jose Morales Perez, also known as "Toro," 26, of Los Angeles. Perez is charged with participating in the RICO Conspiracy and the SPLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy. The indictment alleges that Perez was an SPLS member who assisted in overseeing drug distribution and rent collection.

Melida Flores, also known as "La Dona," 48, of Palmdale. Flores is charged with participating in the two narcotics trafficking conspiracies, as well as 11 counts of distributing cocaine base (crack cocaine). The indictment alleges that Flores was a narcotics wholesaler who served as a supply source for both the SPLS and the HVLS.

Juan Manuel Montes, also known as "Manuel," 38, of El Monte. Montes is charged with participating in the SPLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy by serving as a narcotics wholesaler to the SPLS.

Marlon David Penate, 29, of Los Angeles. Penate is charged with participating in the SPLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy by acting as a narcotics dealer.

Jorge Sanchez Monroy, also known as "Chino," 33, of Los Angeles. Monroy is charged with participating in the SPLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy by serving as a narcotics dealer for the SPLS.

Four of the defendants are already in custody. These defendants, who will be brought to Los Angeles in the coming weeks for arraignment, are:

Ruben Castro, also known as "Nite Owl," "Tecolote" and "Teco," 46, who presently is serving a life sentence in federal prison in connection with his 1997 conviction on felony racketeering charges in federal court in Los Angeles. Ruben Castro is charged with participating in the RICO Conspiracy and the two narcotics trafficking conspiracies.

Elvin Ambrocio, also known as "Woody," 36, who is serving a 30-month sentence in federal prison for illegal re-entry after deportation. Ambrocio is charged with participating in the RICO Conspiracy and the two narcotics trafficking conspiracies, as well as possessing with the intent to distribute cocaine base (crack cocaine) and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The indictment alleges that Ambrocio served as a shot-caller for both the SPLS and the HVLS.

Ronaldo Cruz, also known as "Casper," 34, who is serving a term of 56 months in federal prison for a 2005 conviction for illegal re-entry after deportation. Cruz is charged with participating in the RICO Conspiracy and the SPLS-related narcotics trafficking conspiracy. The indictment alleges that Cruz was an SPLS member who assisted in overseeing the drug distribution and "rent" collection operations within SPLS territory.

Luis Castro, 42, of Los Angeles, who is in state prison after being convicted earlier this summer of receipt of stolen property. Luis Castro is charged with participating in the HVLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy by acting as a narcotics dealer for the HVLS.

Additionally, there are four fugitives in this case who are currently being sought by federal authorities. They are:

Jesusita Ramirez, also known as "Jesusita Castro" and "Suzie," 62, of Los Angeles. Ramirez is charged with participating in the RICO conspiracy and the two narcotics trafficking conspiracies. Ramirez is Ruben Castro's girlfriend, and the indictment alleges that she acted as his contact on the street by relaying orders and by collecting rent from the SPLS and the HVLS.

Noe Chavez, also known as "Lil Duster," 23, of Los Angeles. Chavez is charged with participating in the RICO Conspiracy and the HVLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy. The indictment alleges that Chavez was an HVLS member who assisted in overseeing drug distribution and rent collection.

Juana Fuentes, also known as "Mari," 24, of Los Angeles. Fuentes is charged with participating in the HVLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy. The indictment alleges that Fuentes was a narcotics wholesaler who served as a supply source for the HVLS.

Edwin Schaad, also known as "Chaparro," 41, of Los Angeles, is charged with participating in the SPLS narcotics trafficking conspiracy by serving as a narcotics wholesaler for the SPLS.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

If convicted of the racketeering conspiracy count, the statutory maximum penalty that may be imposed on defendants Ruben Castro, Ramirez, Sanchez, Ambrocio, Bravo, Pineda, Cruz, Alvarez, Chavez, Torres and Perez is life without parole in federal prison.

The statutory maximum sentence that may be imposed on every defendant, based upon their participation in one or both of the narcotics distribution conspiracies, is life in prison. The statutory mandatory minimum sentence that must be imposed following conviction on these counts is 10 years in prison.

Flores and Ambrocio each face up to 40 years in prison, and mandatory minimum sentences of five years in prison, for each count of distribution of cocaine base. Ambrocio and Torres each face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

This case was investigated by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Crimes, also known as the Safe Streets Task Force, which is comprised of agents and investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The United States Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the California Department of Corrections provided assistance during the course of this investigation.

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Release No. 06-116

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