Norteño Gang Associate Sentenced To 12 Years In Prison For Participating In RICO Conspiracy And Being An Accessory After The Fact To An Attempted Murder
SAN JOSE – Robert Loera was sentenced today to 144 months in prison for his role in a racketeering conspiracy and for being an accessory after the fact to an attempted murder, announced United States Attorney Alex G. Tse and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. The sentence was handed down earlier today by the Honorable Lucy H. Koh, U.S. District Judge.
On October 24, 2018, Loera, 38, of Salinas, pleaded guilty to the charges. According to his plea agreement, Loera admitted that from 2009 to 2011, he associated with gang members from Norteño street gang cliques, including “East Las Casitas” or “ELC,” “Salinas East Market” or “SEM,” and “Santa Rita.” Loera also admitted that from at least 2009 and continuing through at least 2011, he was a member of an Enterprise made up of Norteño street gang members and associates.
“The senseless violence of the Norteño gangs in Salinas demands that we respond with a constant and vigilant law enforcement approach,” said United States Attorney Tse. “We applaud the Court’s strong sentence for this gang associate, and hope that it will provide much needed solace to the defendant’s victims and send a clear message to the Salinas community that this office is dedicated to prosecuting those individuals engaged in gang violence, and even those who assist others to commit gang violence, to the fullest extent of the law.”
Loera acknowledged in his plea agreement that Enterprise members committed acts of violence to benefit the Norteño gang, specific Norteño street cliques, or the Enterprise, itself. Such acts of violence included murder, attempted murder, and robbery. For example, members of ELC sought to attack and kill members of rival Sureño gangs and members of other rival gangs. In addition, sometimes Norteño gang members from different cliques combined to engage in illegal activities, including narcotics trafficking and robberies. Further, Norteño cliques engaged in violence simply to assert their gang identities, to claim or protect their territory, to challenge or respond to a challenge, to retaliate against a rival gang or member, to gain notoriety and show their superiority over others, and to send others a message that they are strong, powerful, and not to be provoked.
Loera admitted that while an Enterprise member, members of the gang would kill, and try to kill, actual and suspected Sureños, persons who defied the will of the gang, and persons suspected of cooperating with law enforcement. Loera also admitted that on November 5, 2010, he picked up two gang members after one of them shot at suspected Sureños. While driving, Loera learned of the shooting and drove the gang members out of the area to help them evade police. Loera later was informed that one of the shooter’s victims was grazed in the head by a bullet and one was struck in the hand, causing serious bodily injury.
Loera’s plea agreement also contains a list of crimes in which he participated directly, including the following:
- On September 13, 2010, Loera assisted three gang members in the robbery of a CVS pharmacy in Salinas. Loera remained outside in a vehicle, while gang members went inside and conducted the robbery using at least one firearm, which was brandished during the robbery. Approximately $8,000 was stolen during the robbery.
- On November 18, 2010, Loera assisted in the robbery of the Jewelry Outlet jewelry store in Salinas. Loera waited in a getaway car while gang members entered the jewelry store armed with two handguns which they brandished while robbing the store. After the robbery, Loera drove the robbers away in the car. The jewelry store lost approximately $45,000 from the robbery.
- On February 1, 2010, Loera assisted in the robbery of another jewelry store in Watsonville, Calif. Loera remained outside in a car monitoring a scanner for police activity in the area while gang members entered the jewelry store and brandished firearms during the robbery. The jewelry store lost approximately $80,000 from the robbery.
On October 28, 2015, a grand jury charged Loera with one count each of racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5); conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(6); conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); conspiracy to rob banks and credit unions, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2113(a) and (d), and 371; and accessory after the fact, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1959(a)(5) and 3. Loera also was charged with two counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and 2. Pursuant to his plea agreement, Loera pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charge and the accessory charge.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Koh also sentenced Loera to a five-year period of supervised release, to commence after Loera completes his prison sentence. Loera has been in federal custody since his arrest on this case in November 2015, and will begin serving his sentence immediately.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Hopkins, Christiaan Highsmith, and Stephen Meyer are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Nina Williams, Adria Trgovich, and Lance Libatique. The investigation leading to the indictment was initially led by the Salinas Police Department and later adopted as part of the FBI’s crackdown on Norteño gangs in Monterey County. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the Salinas Police Department, which has played, and continues to play, a critical role in support of the case.