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Debra Wong Yang
United States Attorney
Central District of California


United States Courthouse
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
Release No. 06-129

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2006
For Information, Contact Public Affairs
Thom Mrozek (213) 894-6947

FINAL DEFENDANT PLEADS GUILTY IN RACKETEERING CASE THAT TARGETED MEXICAN MAFIA MEMBER WHO CONTROLLED HISPANIC GANGS AND DRUG TRAFFICKING IN ORANGE COUNTY


Los Angeles, CA - A top lieutenant to a Mexican Mafia member who controlled Hispanic street gangs across Orange County pleaded guilty today to federal charges, admitting that he conspired with others to violate federal racketeering laws.

Marco Diaz, 33, of Santa Ana, becomes the 28th defendant indicted last year to be convicted of federal charges. Diaz, one of two top assistants to Mexican Mafia member Peter Ojeda, helped Ojeda's organization extort "taxes" from street gangs and ordered punishment to those who did not pay.

Ojeda, 64, of La Habra, pleaded guilty on September 12. Both Diaz and Ojeda pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the racketeer-influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) Act and conspiring to distribute narcotics. Both men, who pleaded guilty before United States District Judge David O. Carter in Santa Ana, face potential life sentences. Diaz is scheduled to be sentenced on January 8, 2007, while Ojeda is scheduled to appear before Judge Carter for sentencing on December 18.

The 28 defendants in this case were indicted by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana in June 2005. The evidence in the case showed that the Ojeda Organization engaged in extortion and assault, as well as assisting in the distribution of narcotics throughout Orange County. The Ojeda Organization included high-ranking members of several Hispanic street gangs, which helped the organization exert its influence across Orange County and into the Orange County jail system and California prisons. Sixteen of the defendants were charged with and have pleaded guilty to the RICO conspiracy charge. The indictment alleged dozens of overt acts that members of the organization committed to expand the power and control of the enterprise. Detailing conduct in 2004 and early 2005, the RICO count outlined how Ojeda and his assistants demanded taxes from numerous street gangs and others who wanted to distribute drugs in Orange County. The Ojeda Organization coordinated the collection of taxes from jail inmates who were selling drugs, and it ordered assaults on those who failed to pay taxes or showed disrespect to the organization.

The Ojeda Organization required Hispanic criminal street gangs in Orange County to pay money as a "tax" or "tribute" on a regular basis. The Ojeda Organization permitted the tax-paying gangs and gang members to exert influence over their neighborhoods and territories. The Ojeda Organization disciplined Orange County criminal street gangs and their members who engaged in unsanctioned violence, such as a drive-by shooting, which could cause increased law enforcement attention and thereby threaten the income of the Ojeda Organization.

The other top lieutenant of the organization, Jose Becerra, 38, of Placentia, pleaded guilty on August 14 to the RICO conspiracy count. Becerra, who faces up to 20 years in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Carter on November 13.

Of the other 25 defendants, 17 have been sentenced. Judge Carter has imposed penalties ranging from 24 to 292 months in federal prison.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Santa Ana Gang Task Force, which is made up of officers from the Santa Ana Police Department and special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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Release No. 06-129

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