David J. Miller And Minnesota Independent Cooperative, Inc., Convicted In Multi-Million-Dollar Prescription Drug Diversion Scheme
SAN FRANCISCO – Three members and one associate of the Varrio South Park (VSP), a Norteño gang in Santa Rosa, Calif., were sentenced yesterday to federal prison for their participation in a racketeering conspiracy to commit violent crimes, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.
Ruben Quiroz, 29, Samuel Tewolde, 32, and Cesar Castellanos, 31, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison. VSP leader David Martinez, 34, was sentenced to an 18-year prison term. These defendants, all Santa Rosa residents, were the last four out of the eight total defendants charged and sentenced in the case.
The case stems from a seventeen-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on December 10, 2013. In the indictment, six members and an associate of the VSP were charged with conspiracy to commit violent crimes, including murder and assault with a dangerous weapon, in aid of racketeering; use of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence; robbery affecting interstate commerce; narcotics trafficking; and witness tampering. According to the indictment, VSP members and associates agreed to conduct the affairs of the enterprise through, among other crimes, narcotics trafficking, witness intimidation, robbery, and murder. Also in the indictment are allegations that Andrew Hill-Piccola, not alleged to be a gang member or associate, violated federal laws prohibiting felons from possessing firearms.
All of the defendants charged in the racketeering conspiracy — Martinez, a/k/a “Oso,” a/k/a “Fat Boy,” a/k/a “Big Homie”; Quiroz; Castellanos, a/k/a “Cheese”; Tewolde; Kalin Carrel; Lucio Mendoza; and Edmund Deneiliom — pleaded guilty to conspiring to conduct the affairs of VSP through a pattern of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). They also pleaded guilty to using firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Martinez and Quiroz also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a robbery affecting interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a). Martinez also pleaded guilty to trafficking methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A). Defendants Tewolde and Castellanos pleaded guilty to separate counts of attempted murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5).
The acts upon which these convictions were based are wide-ranging. According to the indictment and plea agreements, on August 19, 2013, Martinez and Quiroz committed a robbery that resulted in a high-speed car chase during which they threatened victims with a firearm. On September 5, 2013, Tewolde fired shots in the parking lot of a restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa at a person whom he believed to have “snitched” against other members of VSP. On October 9, 2012, Castellanos shot at a fellow gang member whom Castellanos believed had challenged his status and authority within the gang. In addition, Castellanos pleaded guilty to a count of witness tampering related to his September 14, 2013, threat to kill a witness he believed would testify against Tewolde.
Defendants Deneiliom, Mendoza, and Carrell each pleaded guilty in prior proceedings to conspiring to conduct the affairs of VSP through a pattern of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), and to using firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Andrew Hill-Piccola, not charged with racketeering, pleaded guilty in a prior proceeding on charges he was a felon in possession of a firearm.
In sum, the punishments received by the defendants are as follows:
The sentences were handed down by the Honorable William H. Alsup, U.S. District Judge. Judge Alsup also sentenced the defendants to five-year periods of supervised release each. Due to their association with Norteños, Judge Alsup also ordered the defendants not to associate with Norteño gang members or any other gang members during the period of their supervised release. All the defendants are currently in custody.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Damali A. Taylor and Marc Price Wolf prosecuted the case with the assistance of Kurt Kosek, Kevin Costello, and Daniel Charlier-Smith. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s North Bay Regional Gang Task Force, with the assistance of the Santa Rosa Police Department and the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.