LOS ANGELES – A high-ranking member of the Oxnard-based Surtown Chiques street gang who attempted to secure control of drug trafficking in Ventura County and who extorted “taxes” on behalf of the Mexican Mafia prison gang has been found guilty by a jury of federal narcotics charges.
Armando “Criminal” Molina, 36, of Ventura, was found guilty late Friday afternoon of one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and five counts of distribution of methamphetamine. Molina was arrested in 2013 as part of Operation “SuperNova,” a multi-agency task force investigation that targeted Mexican Mafia-affiliated street gangs in Ventura County.
According to evidence presented at a four-day trial, between October 2012 and March 2013, Molina and his co-conspirators sold 247 grams of pure methamphetamine to a confidential informant working for an FBI task force.
Molina was arrested in 2013 on a criminal complaint 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, the complaint alleges.
United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt has scheduled a February 6 sentencing hearing, at which time Molina will face a statutory maximum sentence of life and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
On the eve of Molina’s trial, his co-defendant, Frank “Villain” Ruiz, 37, of Ventura County, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Ruiz’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for December 12, at which time he will face a statutory maximum sentence of life in federal prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. In total, eight defendants have been convicted in connection with this phase of the operation.
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.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Agustin D. Orozco of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section and Alexander B. Schwab of the Major Frauds Section.