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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 14, 2021

Superseding Indictment Charges Mexican Mafia Member and Associates with Murdering Inmate at Federal Jail in Downtown L.A.

          LOS ANGELES – A federal grand jury today returned a superseding indictment charging three Pomona-area gang members and Mexican Mafia associates with murdering an inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in downtown Los Angeles.

          The superseding indictment alleges Jose Valencia Gonzalez, a.k.a. “Swifty,” 39, Carlos Gonzalez, a.k.a. “Popeye,” 38, and Juan Sanchez, a.k.a. “Squeaks,” 28, all of Pomona, killed the victim on June 28, 2020 at the direction of Mexican Mafia member Michael Lerma, a.k.a. “Big Mike,” 65, also of Pomona, who also is charged with the murder. The victim’s murder was ordered in retaliation for the victim’s failure to pay off a drug debt to the Mexican Mafia, according to the indictment.

          These defendants previously were charged with conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act related to the Mexican Mafia’s control of the City of Pomona and surrounding areas, and included a separate conspiracy to murder, a kidnapping, and a carjacking. The superseding indictment alleges Lerma exercised control over, and extorted drug proceeds from, Latino street gangs in and around Pomona, as well as from inmates at Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County. Members of Lerma’s criminal enterprise also engaged in robberies, identity theft and fraud, drug trafficking, kidnapping, and other acts of violence, the indictment alleges.

          The in-custody murder was committed while the defendants were in federal custody awaiting trial scheduled for April 12, 2022. In addition to the murder charges, the superseding indictment describes the enterprise’s takeover of MDC and seizing control of the drug trafficking within the facility. If convicted, these defendants would each face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison or death. A decision whether to seek the death penalty will be made in the future.

          This matter was investigated by the FBI’s Los Angeles Metropolitan Violent Crime Task Force in conjunction with the FBI’s San Gabriel Valley Safe Streets Task Force (SGVSSTF), which is comprised of agents and officers with the FBI, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Pomona Police Department, the El Monte Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). The Pomona Police Department is the sponsoring agency of the SGVSSTF and has been the headquarters for the task force since its inception in 2008.

          Assistant United States Attorneys Max B. Shiner of the Violent and Organized Crime Section, and Shawn J. Nelson and Keith D. Ellison of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section are prosecuting this case.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Contact: 
Ciaran McEvoy Public Information Officer United States Attorney’s Office Central District of California (Los Angeles) ciaran.mcevoy@usdoj.gov (213) 894-4465
Press Release Number: 
21-215
Updated October 14, 2021