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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 16, 2021

12 Alleged Members Of Two San Jose-Based Norteño Street Gangs Charged With Racketeering-Related Crimes

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal grand jury indicted twelve California residents, charging each with joining criminal conspiracies as part of their alleged membership in San Jose-based Norteño street gangs.  The crimes were set out in two separate indictments, both of which were unsealed today.  The indictments describe defendants’ alleged membership in or affiliation with one of two gangs, known as El Hoyo Palmas and San Jose Grande, both of which fall under the prison gang, the Nuestra Familia.  The announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Stephanie Hinds, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair, and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Wade R. Shannon at a press conference held earlier today.  Appearing at the press conference were Chief of the Office of Correctional Safety for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Derrick Marion, Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith, and San Jose Deputy Chief of Police Elle Washburn.

According to the indictments, the Nuestra Familia is a prison gang whose members are housed in various California state prisons but whose power and authority extends well beyond the prison walls.  Outside of custodial settings, the Nuestra Familia organizes geographic territories throughout Northern California into groups known as “street regiments.”   The indictments further describe how street regiments are divided into smaller subsets, or “hoods,” based on the local neighborhoods where their members reside or where the gangs operate.  Street regiments then collect money from these “hoods,” typically in the form of monthly “dues” or taxes on profits from illegal activities, such as drug dealing, some of which is then to be provided to the Nuestra Familia.

“These two indictments represent a major law enforcement effort to curb street gang violence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Hinds. “ A principal objective of San Jose Grande and El Hoyo Palmas street gangs was to generate profits through narcotics trafficking, robbery, and other criminal activities. The operation demonstrates that this office, in coordination with our law enforcement partners, will use all the tools at our disposal to quell the violence in our streets.”

"The arrests made yesterday, most significantly the arrests of the Nuestra Familia leadership, will severely cripple the ability of this criminal enterprise to continue to facilitate crimes in communities throughout the state and help break a decades-old cycle of violence," said FBI San Francisco Special Agent in Charge Fair.

“The intersection of drug trafficking and violence perpetuated by gangs is all too common, it is a continual cycle of lawlessness that plagues many of our Bay Area communities. It is unacceptable.” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Shannon. “By putting together our collective authorities we are in a better position to systematically target and bring to justice those responsible for violent crime on our streets.”

The first indictment, filed August 12, 2021, addresses the San Jose-based street gang known as El Hoyo Palmas. The six defendants in that indictment are Jose Garcia, aka “Bones,” 33; Juan Gonzalez, aka “Crazy Indian,” aka “Trigger,” 48; Paul Valenzuela, aka “One Eye,” 41; Caleb Eller, aka “Chuckles,” aka “Shank,” 33; Kyle Leonis, aka “Little Green,” 26; and Juan Dominguez, aka “Green Eyes,” aka “Nito,” 38.  The indictment alleges that El Hoyo Palmas is a multi-generational Norteño gang that is a sub-group of the Santa Clara County Regiment and operates in and around the San Jose area. According to the indictment, El Hoyo Palmas derives profits from illicit activity and its members provide monthly “dues” or “contributions” to the Santa Clara County Regiment for distribution to the Nuestra Familia.  The indictment alleges defendants conspired to commit crimes, including acts of violence, to make money, benefit El Hoyo Palmas, and increase their status within the gang.  

The El Hoyo Palmas indictment has three counts.  Count one of the indictment charges Garcia, Gonzalez, Valenzuela, Eller, and Leonis, with conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a).  According to the indictment, these five defendants conspired in September and October of 2018 to commit a robbery that would have obstructed, delayed, and affected interstate commerce.  Counts two and three of the indictment allege that in October of 2018, Garcia, Gonzalez, Valenzuela, Leonis, and Dominguez conspired to commit murder and assault.  Count two alleges that the defendants conspired to commit murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5), while count three alleges the defendants conspired to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(6). 

If convicted, the defendants charged with (1) conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery face a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison, (2) conspiracy to commit murder face a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison, and (3) conspiracy to commit assault face a statutory maximum of 3 years in prison.  The court also may order additional terms of supervised release, fines, and restitution.  Nevertheless, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. 

The second indictment, also filed August 12, 2021, addresses the street gang known as San Jose Grande.  The defendants in the San Jose Grande indictment are Joshua Hernandez, aka “Sleepy G,” 39; Giovanni Coria, aka “Gio,” 24; Andrew Anchondo, aka “Indo,” aka “Lil Indo,” 23;  Charles Pineda, aka “Taco,” 43; Eliseo Martinez, aka “Snow,” aka “Snowman,” 27; and Nicholas Mendez, aka “Prime Time,” 45.  Like the El Hoyo Palmas indictment, this indictment alleges that San Jose Grande is a multi-generational Norteño street gang that is a sub-group of the Santa Clara County Regiment to which its members pay “dues” or “contributions.”  At the center of the indictment is a list of more than two dozen transactions in which one or more of the defendants allegedly engaged in activities to promote the aims of San Jose Grande.  The list includes alleged participation in the sale of narcotics, the sale of firearms, armed robberies, a stabbing, a home invasion robbery, and other acts of violence.  The defendants all are charged in a single count of racketeering conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). 

If convicted, the defendants in the second indictment face a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison.  In addition, the court may order terms of supervised release, fines, and restitution.  Nevertheless, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. 

Regarding the defendants in both indictments, an indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

The defendants are scheduled to make initial federal court appearances before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Nathanael Cousins today.

This case is being prosecuted by the Organized Crime Strike Force of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI (San Francisco, Sacramento, and Phoenix Divisions) the DEA, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshal Service, and with the assistance of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, ,the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and the San Jose Police Department, as well as with the support of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, Antioch Police Department, Campbell Police Department, Fremont Police Department, King’s County Sheriff’s Office, Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, Mountain View Police Department, Sacramento Police Department, Salinas Police Department, Menlo Park Police Department, Santa Clara County Parole Department, Santa Clara County Probation Department, Santa Clara Police Department, Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office, Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office, Modesto Police Department, San Francisco Police Department, and Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department, and Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety.

This investigation and prosecution are part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”), which identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks..      

 

Topic(s): 
Drug Trafficking
Updated September 16, 2021