SANTA ANA, California – Three Orange County street gang members were found guilty by a federal jury today of the August 2017 murder in Orange of a gangster who had fallen afoul of a member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang.
Mike Escobar, a.k.a. “Risky,” 40, a member of the Little Hood gang in Anaheim; James Mendez, a.k.a. “Buck,” 44, a Sureño gang member from Garden Grove; and Kevin Trejo, a.k.a. “Minor,” 36, a member of the Jeffrey Street gang in Anaheim, each were found guilty of one count of violent crime in aid of racketeering.
According to evidence presented at the eight-day trial, on August 21, 2017, the defendants murdered the victim, a member of a Costa Mesa street gang. At the time of his murder, the victim trafficked drugs and collected “taxes” from gangs in Orange County for imprisoned Mexican Mafia member Johnny Martinez, a.k.a. “Crow,” 47, a co-defendant in this case who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and who is scheduled to go to trial on June 25, 2024.
The defendants tricked the victim into driving with them just before midnight from his home in Anaheim to a residential neighborhood in Orange, where they shot him seven times in the back and once in the head. Escobar, Mendez, and Trejo were acting on orders from Martinez, who issued the order to kill the victim because the victim on two occasions stole drugs and money controlled by Martinez, the jury found.
United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney scheduled March 25, 2024 sentencing hearings for the defendants, each of whom faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office; the Orange Police Department; the Santa Ana Police Department; the Anaheim Police Department; the Fullerton Police Department; the Placentia Police Department; the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; the Orange County Probation Department; the Orange County District Attorney’s Office; and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Greg Staples and Gregory Scally of the Santa Ana Branch Office and Trial Attorneys Grace Bowen and Christopher Matthews of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Violent Crime and Racketeering Section are prosecuting this case.