Joint Operation Results In 13 Arrests
SAN FRANCISCO – Facing charges that include racketeering and murder, 13 members and associates of the 500 Block/C Street Gang were arrested early this morning during a joint law enforcement operation for crimes that took place in South San Francisco and Daly City, Calif., announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag; Special Agent in Charge Clark Settles, ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Francisco; South San Francisco Mayor Richard Garbarino; and Daly City Chief of Police Manuel Martinez Jr. Two additional defendants were already in federal custody and an additional four defendants are in state custody and will be transferred to federal custody next week to face charges.
During the operation, three HSI agents received non-life threatening injuries. They were transported to a Bay area hospital where they received medical care.
The 19 defendants are charged in a 29-count superseding indictment that was returned by the Grand Jury on April 24, 2012, and unsealed earlier today. The charges include racketeering conspiracy to commit violent crimes – including murder -- in aid of racketeering, use of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence, robbery affecting interstate commerce, accessory after the fact, and obstruction of justice. The fifteen defendants in federal custody are scheduled to make their initial appearances before Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero tomorrow morning.
“The charges that were unsealed today are the result of the tireless efforts of several law enforcement agencies who are working together to keep the community safe. For the victims and their families, there is nothing we can do to erase their pain and sorrow. I hope, however, that these charges begin to provide some closure for them, “U.S. Attorney Haag said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the three Homeland Security Investigation agents who were injured during this morning’s operation. My office is proud to be associated with professionals who put their lives on the line to protect others and are serious about keeping the community safe. We will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to help bring to justice those who terrorize their communities with violence and fear.”
Of the 19 defendants named in the indictment, 16 — Joseph Ortiz, a/k/a “Little Vicious,” 22, of South San Francisco; Victor Flores, a/k/a “Little Creeper,” 20, of Petaluma, Calif.; Justin Whipple, a/k/a “Teddy,” 19, of San Bruno, Calif.; Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez, a/k/a “BG,” 21, of San Mateo, Calif.; Michael Ortiz Jr., a/k/a “Vicious,” 25, of San Bruno; Michael Ortiz Sr., a/k/a “Blackie,” 48, of San Bruno; Armando Acosta, a/k/a “Savage,” 27, of Pacifica, Calif.; Giovanni Rimando Ascencio, a/k/a “Gio,” 22, of South San Francisco; Raymond Hembry, a/k/a “Tear Drop,” 33, of South San Francisco; James Hembry, a/k/a “Pimpy,” 31, of Daly City; Richard Martinez, a/k/a “Maniac,” 25, of Hayward, Calif.; Rodrigo Aguayo, a/k/a “Ayo,” 23, of San Mateo; Gregorio Guzman, a/k/a “Rhino,” 38, of San Mateo; Mario Bergren, a/k/a “Fat Boy,” 23, of South San Francisco; Andrew Bryant a/k/a “Andy,” 29, of Daly City; and Peter Davis, a/k/a “P-Nasty,” 26, of San Francisco — are charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, arising from their participation in the racketeering enterprise alleged as the 500 Block/C Street Gang. According to the indictment, the 500 Block/C Street Gang constitutes a racketeering enterprise and its members and associates agreed to conduct the affairs of the enterprise through, among other crimes, narcotics trafficking, extortion, robbery, and murder. The 500 Block/C Street Gang was a Norteño gang that warred not only with Sureño gangs, but also with rival Norteño gangs.
Four of the 16 racketeering defendants – Joseph Ortiz, Victor Flores, Justin Whipple and Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez – are also charged with three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, four counts of attempted murder in aid of racketeering, and related firearms offenses arising from a shooting in South San Francisco on Dec. 22, 2010. Joseph Ortiz is also charged with four additional attempted murders in aid of racketeering and a related firearms offense arising from a Dec. 18, 2010, shooting in Daly City.
The three non-racketeering defendants — Louis Rodriguez, 30, of Milbrae, Calif.; Tanya Rodriguez, a/k/a “La China,” 45, of San Bruno; and Betty Ortiz, 49, of San Bruno – along with racketeering defendants Michael Ortiz Jr., Michael Ortiz Sr., and Armando Acosta – are charged with being accessories after the fact to the Dec. 22, 2010, murders and attempted murders. These six defendants and Joseph Ortiz are also charged with various obstruction-related offenses for their efforts to hinder the investigation of the Dec. 22, 2010, shooting.
Joseph Ortiz, Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez and Peter Davis are also charged with robbery affecting interstate commerce and related firearms offenses.
“Today is a welcome day for residents of South San Francisco and a very bad day for an entrenched gang based here in the Bay Area,” said Clark Settles, Special Agent in Charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations San Francisco. “This indictment and the related arrests serve as a warning to local gangs about the consequences of using violence and fear to maintain control of their turf.”
“The South San Francisco City Council extends its sincere congratulations to our Police Department, members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, Daly City Police Department and to the members of the San Mateo County Gang Intelligence Unit for their diligent investigative efforts over the past 16 months. Knowing arrests have been made will hopefully start to bring a sense of closure for the families and the entire community,” South San Francisco Mayor Garbarino said. “The City of South San Francisco will continue its commitment to strengthen our community and encourages everyone to stand together against community violence.”
The maximum possible punishments faced by each defendant are as follows:
- Joseph Ortiz — Death
- Victor Flores — Death
- Justin Whipple — Death
- Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez — Death
- Michael Ortiz Jr. — Life in prison
- Michael Ortiz Sr. — Life in prison
- Armando Acosta — Life in prison
- Giovanni Rimando Ascencio — Life in prison
- Raymond Hembry — Life in prison
- James Hembry — Life in prison
- Richard Martinez — Life in prison
- Rodrigo Aguayo — Life in prison
- Gregorio Guzman — Life in prison
- Mario Bergren — Life in prison
- Andrew Bryant — Life in prison
- Peter Davis — Life in prison
- Louis Rodriguez — 60 years in prison
- Tanya Rodriguez — 40 years in prison
- Betty Ortiz — 40 years in prison
Any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the United States Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). In addition, although Joseph Ortiz, Victor Flores, Justin Whipple, and Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez are eligible for the death penalty for their participation in the Dec. 22, 2010, triple murder in South San Francisco, the decision whether to seek the death penalty against any of them is pending.
Acadia L. Senese and W.S. Wilson Leung are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of paralegal Kevin Costello and legal technician Daniel Charlier-Smith. This prosecution is the result of an investigation initiated by the Daly City Police Department and the South San Francisco Police Department more than a year and half ago, which was joined in 2011 by Homeland Security Investigations, with the assistance of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. U.S. Attorney Haag and HSI Special Agent in Charge Settles would also like to thank the U.S. Marshals Service for its assistance.
Please note, an indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, the defendants in this case must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.