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Press Release

Eleven South Bay Residents Charged In Racketeering Conspiracy For Alleged Involvement In Numerous Street Gang Crimes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Defendants Allegedly Committed Crimes to Promote the Aims of the Salinas Acosta Plaza Norteños Street Gang

SAN JOSE – A federal grand jury has handed down an indictment charging 11 South Bay residents with taking part in a racketeering conspiracy to promote the aims of the Salinas Acosta Plaza Norteños (SAP Norteños) street gang. The indictment, filed April 18, 2024, and unsealed earlier today, describes a halting list of crimes including eight murders during the last five years, multiple additional shootings, drug and gun distribution, and other related crimes allegedly perpetrated by the defendants on behalf of the street gang. The announcement was made at a press conference held at the Salinas Police Department this afternoon.

“The allegations in the indictment, if proven, describe a group that has a wanton disregard for life and an extreme penchant for violence,” said U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey. “The dozens of crimes outlined in the complaint describe a vicious gang that, for example, uses beatings as a hazing for membership and death as a penalty for trying to leave the group. I want to thank Homeland Security Investigations and the Salinas Police Department, including Acting Chief John Murray, for their excellent work. We will continue to round up and prosecute all such offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”

"The charges against the eleven South Bay residents signify a concerted effort to dismantle criminal enterprises and hold individuals accountable for their alleged involvement in egregious organized crime,” said San Francisco Special Agent in Charge Tatum King. “Thank you to the men and women of HSI, Salinas Police Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of California, and partner law enforcement agencies for making today’s court authorized actions safe for all involved. We appreciate their selfless work in protecting those who may not have a voice. In recognition of Police Week, I also acknowledge law enforcement personnel who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our Nation.”

The 12-page indictment charges all 11 defendants under a single count of racketeering conspiracy. According to the indictment, the SAP Norteños are a street gang that originated in a Salinas apartment complex by the same name. The group is now recognized as a clique within the larger collection of Norteño criminal street gangs.

The 11 defendants are as follows: Gil Vasquez, aka “Rhino;” 35, Rigoberto Ramirez Jr., aka “Scooby,” 36; Sergio Hernandez Jr., aka “Mono,” 35; Juan Alvarez, aka “Yogi,” 38; Bertin Medrano, aka “Dre,” 30; Jose Mexicano, aka “Armani,” 25, Salvador Mexicano, aka “Jumpshot,” 20; Raul Coronel Suarez, aka “Ray,” 20; Gustavo Garcia, aka “Tatis,” 25; Lorenzo Garcia Jr., aka “Chito,” 30; and Jose Saldana aka “Chepe,” 19.

As described by the indictment, members of the street gang “meet and work together” to carry out crimes for the benefit of the street gang, its members, the larger Norteño organization, and the Nuestra Familia prison gang. Crimes are perpetrated by gang members to protect and uphold its power, territory, and profits and gang members are expected to engage in shootings, robberies, drug sales, and other criminal conduct to gain entry into, and improve a member’s status in, the gang. In addition, once in the gang, attempting to leave is not permitted; the punishment for attempting to leave is death.

Indictment lists more than three dozen criminal acts that the defendants are alleged to have committed. The list of crimes includes eight murders, one that occurred in July 2014, and another seven that occurred between December 2019 and December 2023. The murder victims include people who defendants perceived were associate with rival gangs, transient men, and men perceived to have dropped out of the SAP Norteños. In addition to the murder allegations, additional crimes described in the indictment that allegedly were committed by the defendants include robberies of individuals at gunpoint; the firebombing of a Salinas apartment; the distribution of drugs including fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana; firearms trafficking, and numerous shootings.

In sum, each defendant is charged with one count of racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). The maximum statutory penalty for a racketeering conspiracy violation is 20 years in prison, and $250,000 fine. In addition, the indictment alleges that special sentencing factors apply to four defendants as follows:

(a)    Gustavo Garcia and Lorenzo Garcia for their respective roles in the July 19, 2014, murder of a person identified in the indictment as “Victim 1;” and

(b)    Raul Coronel Suarez and Jose Saldana for their respective roles in the December 2, 2023, murder of a person identified as “Victim 2.”

The maximum statutory penalty applying to these violations is life in prison. In addition, as part of any sentence, the court may order additional fines; restitution, if appropriate; and an additional term of supervised release to begin after any prison. Nevertheless, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

All the defendants except Lorenzo Garcia and Salvador Mexicano were arrested this morning in coordinated law enforcement operations. Lorenzo Garcia and Salvador Mexicano already were in custody.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Leif Dautch, Amani Floyd, and George Hageman. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the Salinas Police Department, with assistance from the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.

Updated May 2, 2024