Santa Fe Springs Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Charges and Admits 2016 Murder of Rival Gang Member
LOS ANGELES – A member of a street gang that operates in Santa Fe Springs and Whittier pleaded guilty today to federal criminal charges, including ones stemming from the April 2016 murder of a rival gangster outside a San Gabriel Valley restaurant.
Leonardo Antolin, 25, of Whittier, pleaded guilty to five felonies before United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who scheduled a September 23 sentencing hearing. In a plea agreement filed in this case, Antolin has agreed to serve a sentence of 33 to 40 years in federal prison.
Antolin – a member of the Mexican Mafia-affiliated Canta Ranas gang – admitted in the plea agreement that on April 19, 2016, he executed a Mexican Mafia member whom prosecutors allege wanted to expand his influence and challenge the authority of other Mexican Mafia members in the San Gabriel Valley. During the incident at a restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley community of Bassett, the Mexican Mafia member was fatally shot, his bodyguard was severely wounded, and an innocent restaurant patron was shot six times in the abdomen, back, buttocks and legs. Antolin also admitted to aiding in the trafficking of methamphetamine on behalf of Canta Ranas.
Antolin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances, and discharging a firearm during a violent crime.
This guilty plea arose from a 2016 federal grand jury indictment charging 51 defendants that was the result of Operation Frog Legs. Prosecutors have secured more than 20 convictions so far in this matter. A trial for Jose Loza, 40, a Mexican Mafia member and Canta Ranas shot caller, and Ronald Sotello, 43, is scheduled to begin on July 30.
Operation Frog Legs is the result of an investigation by the Southern California Drug Task Force, which is led by the Drug Enforcement Administration as part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiative. The Task Force members that participated in Operation Frog Legs were U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation, the Whittier Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Correctional Safety, Special Service Unit.
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carol Alexis Chen, Chief of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section, and Assistant United States Attorneys Victoria A. Degtyareva and Kathy Yu, also of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section.