High-Ranking Ventura County Gang Member Linked to Mexican Mafia Sentenced to 13½ Years in Prison for Drug Trafficking Offenses
LOS ANGELES – A high-ranking member of the Oxnard-based Surtown Chiques street gang was sentenced today to 162 months in federal prison for attempting to secure control of drug trafficking in Ventura County and extorting “taxes” on behalf of the Mexican Mafia prison gang.
Armando “Criminal” Molina, 39, of Ventura, was sentenced by United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt.
At the conclusion of a four-day trial in September 2019, a federal jury found Molina guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and five counts of distribution of methamphetamine.
Molina was arrested in November 2013 as part of Operation “SuperNova,” a multi-agency task force investigation that targeted Mexican Mafia-affiliated street gangs in Ventura County.
The federal criminal complaint on which Molina was arrested targeting “shotcallers” of Ventura County street gangs. The criminal complaint details a year-long undercover investigation and outlines a series of narcotics transactions that led to the seizure of more than two pounds of methamphetamine and quantities of heroin that were being sold on the streets of Ventura County.
The drugs were supplied by a drug trafficking organization controlled by Mexican Mafia member Martin Madrigal-Cazares. Local street gangs communicated with the head of the organization in Mexico, while controlling narcotics sales and collecting “taxes” on behalf of the Mexican Mafia in Ventura County.
From October 2012 and March 2013, Molina and his co-conspirators sold approximately 267 grams of pure methamphetamine to a confidential informant working for an FBI task force.
“[Molina] was more than some street dealer doling out methamphetamine to addicts to make a buck,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “Rather, he was a key member in a broader, more dangerous criminal enterprise that sought to dominate profitable criminal conduct over the Ventura County region.”
On the eve of Molina’s trial in 2019, a co-defendant, Frank Joshua “Villain” Ruiz, 40, of Ventura County, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. In February 2020, Judge Kronstadt sentenced Ruiz to 135 months in federal prison.
The investigation was conducted jointly by the FBI, the Ventura Police Department, and the Oxnard Police Department. The Ventura County-Multi-Agency Gang Task Force is one of many FBI Safe Streets Task Forces throughout the United States, funded for the purpose of assisting local police in identifying and addressing violent crime in America.
Assistant United States Attorney Mack E. Jenkins, Chief of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section, prosecuted this case.