LOS ANGELES – An El Sereno man and former 18th Street gang member has been sentenced to 24 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a federal drug trafficking offense and admitting he murdered a man who had failed to pay “taxes” to the Mexican Mafia.
Eddie “Criminal” Garcia, 39, was sentenced on Monday by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald. Following the completion of the 288-month prison term, Garcia will serve eight years of supervised release.
During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Fitzgerald said it was “difficult to imagine a more egregious crime in federal court” and that the defendant had “stolen hope” from the victim’s family.
Garcia pleaded guilty last year to participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in a case that targeted the San Gabriel Valley-based Puente-13 gang. In addition to participating in drug trafficking activities that included collecting “taxes” or “rent” on behalf of the Mexican Mafia member who controlled Puente-13, Garcia admitted that he murdered another gang member who failed to make those extortion payments.
“This defendant killed another human being in cold blood to further his own criminal credentials and to further his drug trafficking career,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “While he may have believed he could get away with murder, the hard work and dedication of law enforcement and prosecutors in my office ensured that he was held accountable. This case is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of gang violence on our community and the severe consequences that will result from participating in those criminal enterprises."
In a plea agreement with prosecutors, Garcia admitted that in 2006 he and two members of Puente-13 lured another gang member to an apartment complex, where Garcia executed the victim with a bullet to the head. Garcia was acting at the behest of leaders of Puente-13, who targeted the victim, a Valinda man named David Dragna, because Dragna was suspected of taking drug money that was intended for the Mexican Mafia.
At Monday’s sentencing, Dragna’s sister lamented the loss of her “best friend and the person who taught her how to ride a bike, drive a car, and went on [her] first date as a chaperone.” She described the devastation the murder caused her family who, for the past decade, had been desperately waiting for the day that they would see justice be done.
The Dragna murder was unsolved prior to a federal racketeering indictment that was unsealed in June 2010.
Two members of Puente-13 pleaded guilty to participating in Dragna’s murder. Angel “Smiley” Torres was sentenced to 186 months in prison, and Steven “Flaco” Nunez is currently serving a 10-year prison term.
The Mexican Mafia member who controlled the Puente-13 gang and his brother were sentenced to life in federal prison after being convicted at trial for their roles in leading a wide-ranging Puente-13 drug and murder conspiracy.
The investigation into the Puente-13 criminal enterprise and the murder of Dragna was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mack E. Jenkins of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section.