LOS ANGELES – A Mexican Mafia member and “shotcaller” of the Santa Fe Springs and Whittier-based Canta Ranas street gang was sentenced today to life plus an additional 30 years in federal prison for leading the wide-ranging criminal enterprise and for murdering a rival gangster at a San Gabriel Valley restaurant in 2016.
Jose Loza, 41, was sentenced by United States District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who also set a June 1 hearing to determine the amount Loza will pay as restitution to his victims.
Loza is the lead defendant in a 2016 federal grand jury indictment charging 51 Canta Ranas members and associates with racketeering and other related offenses.
After a month-long trial in August 2019, a jury found Loza guilty of 12 felonies. Specifically, the jury found Loza guilty of one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, four counts of engaging in violent crimes in aid of racketeering (VICAR), one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, three counts of using a firearm during a crime of violence, one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and one count of money laundering conspiracy.
Loza implemented the orders of David Gavaldon, an imprisoned senior Mexican Mafia member who was himself a long-time member of the Canta Ranas street gang and who was not charged in this case as he is serving a life-without-parole sentence in Pelican Bay State Prison. Gavaldon exerted control over Canta Ranas and other gangs in Whittier, Santa Fe Springs, Riverside, and Stockton, and he received compensation in the form of “rent” or “taxes” generated by drug trafficking and other offenses committed in gang territory.
In addition to implementing Gavaldon’s orders, Loza murdered a fellow Mexican Mafia member who was marked for death by the prison gang after he was perceived as encroaching upon the territories of other Mexican Mafia members. During the April 19, 2016 incident at a restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley community of Basset, the victim was shot six times, his bodyguard was severely wounded, and an innocent restaurant patron was shot multiple times.
Loza’s accomplice in the 2016 murder, Leonardo Antolin, 25, of Whittier, pleaded guilty to five felonies in this case and has been sentenced to 40 years in federal prison for his crimes.
Prosecutors have secured 48 convictions so far in this matter, which is the result of Operation Frog Legs. During the course of that three-year investigation, law enforcement seized 56 firearms and made several narcotics seizures, including nearly one pound of methamphetamine seized during the execution of search warrants after Loza murdered the other Mexican Mafia member.
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 investigation was conducted with the support of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
This matter was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Carol Alexis Chen, Chief of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section, and Assistant United States Attorneys Kathy Yu, also of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section and Victoria A. Degtyareva of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.