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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 2, 2019

Norteño Gang Member Sentenced To More Than 36 Years In Prison For Racketeering Conspiracy, Murder, And Armed Robbery

Salinas Man Participated in Three Murders, Two Attempted Murders, Armed Robbery of a Jewelry Store, and Three Armed Bank Robberies

SAN JOSE – Antonio Cruz was sentenced today to 36½ years in prison and ordered to pay $324,915.59 in restitution for his role in a racketeering conspiracy that involved three murders, two attempted murders, one robbery affecting interstate commerce, and three armed bank robberies, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.  The sentence was handed down on May 1, 2019, by the Honorable Lucy H. Koh, U.S. District Judge.

Cruz, 32, of Salinas, pleaded guilty to the charges on October 3, 2018.  According to the plea agreement, Cruz admitted to being a member of the Salinas-based Norteño street gang clique known as “Santa Rita.”  Cruz also admitted to being a member of a larger racketeering enterprise known as the Salinas Norteños Enterprise (the “Enterprise”) consisting of several violent Norteño cliques in Salinas.  Cruz was a member of both groups from 2009 to 2011.  Santa Rita and other Norteño cliques in Salinas committed acts of violence for the benefit of the gang, including murder, attempted murder, and robbery.  Among other acts of violence, members of Santa Rita sought to attack and kill members of rival Sureño gang cliques, as well as members of other rival gangs.

The murders, attempted murders, and robberies to which Cruz pleaded guilty took place between December 2009 and January 2011.  On December 2, 2009, Cruz went to Lohman Street in Salinas to shoot an individual that he and his fellow Enterprise members selected as a target and believed was a rival Sureño gang member.  Cruz staked out the victim’s house in the early morning hours until the victim came out of his house and began warming up his car.  Cruz approached and shot the victim multiple times with a .380 caliber handgun.  The victim died as a result of Cruz’s attack.

On July 12, 2010, Cruz went to the Northgate apartment complex in Salinas with a fellow Enterprise member to shoot individuals they believed were Sureño gang members who had recently moved into the complex.  Cruz armed his fellow Enterprise member with a firearm that was used to shoot at two victims working on a car in the parking lot of the apartment complex.  The gunfire struck one of the victims in the lower back.  The .45 caliber pistol used in the shooting was later recovered from Cruz’s backpack when Cruz was arrested in 2012.

On August 17, 2010, Cruz and a fellow Enterprise member drove around Salinas hunting for a Sureño to shoot and kill.  When they spotted an individual they believed was a rival Sureño, Cruz stopped the car near the victim and Cruz’s passenger got out of the car and fired his gun at the victim multiple times.  The victim died as a result of the shooting.

On November 19, 2010, Cruz and other Enterprise members learned there was a house party at a residence the Enterprise had identified as a Sureño hang out.  A fellow Enterprise member conducted reconnaissance and confirmed that Sureños were having a party at the residence, and then patrolled the neighborhood in his car as a lookout for law enforcement.  Cruz drove two codefendants to shoot up the party and supplied one of the shooters with a .40 caliber Glock handgun with an extended magazine.  Cruz remained in his vehicle while the other two Enterprise members approached the house on foot.  When they got to the driveway, one of the gunmen fired more than 10 rounds, killing one victim and injuring another.  

Cruz also acted as the getaway driver in several armed robberies, including the June 2, 2010, robbery of the Zales jewelry store in Gilroy; the November 23, 2010 robbery of the Bank of the West in San Jose; the December 16, 2010 robbery of the Wells Fargo Bank in Watsonville; and the January 7, 2011 robbery of the Rabobank in Watsonville.  In each robbery, Enterprise members entered the establishment and brandished firearms to induce employees to turn over cash and jewelry.  The Enterprise stole jewelry with a retail value of more than $800,000, and cash proceeds estimated at more than $92,000.

On October 28, 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Cruz and eight other Salinas Norteño gang members.  According to the Superseding Indictment, all nine defendants commited crimes as part of Norteño gang activity.  The superseding indictment alleges that, over a two-year period, the defendants committed 12 murders, seven attempted murders, and numerous armed robberies of banks, financial institutions, and commercial establishments.  The following additional three defendants have pleaded guilty to crimes as part of the criminal RICO enterprise:

Name

Charges

Sentence

Julian Ruiz

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)

 

Use/Possession of Firearm in Furtherance of Crime of Violence, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and 2

 

Sentenced February 28, 2018, to 210 months in prison and 5 years supervised release

Anthony Lek

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)

 

Use/Possession of Firearm in Furtherance of Crime of Violence, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and 2

 

Robbery Affecting Interstate Commerce, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

 

Use/Possession of Firearm in Furtherance of Crime of Violence, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and 2

 

Sentenced November 28, 2018, to 180 months ii prison and 5 years supervised release 

Robert Loera

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)

 

Accessory After the Fact

18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5) and 3

Sentenced on October 24, 2018, to 144 months in prison and 5 years supervised release

The investigation leading to the indictment was part of the FBI’s crackdown on Norteño gangs in Monterey County.

In sentencing Cruz, Judge Koh described Cruz’s crimes as “heinous.”  In addition to the prison term, Judge Koh sentenced Cruz to a five-year period of supervised release to commence after Cruz completes his prison sentence, and $324,915.59 in restitution.  Cruz is currently being held in the custody of the United States Marshals Service.  He has been in custody since June 2012 when he was arrested on a separate criminal charge.  

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Meyer and Christiaan Highsmith are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Nina Burney Williams and Lance Libatique.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and Salinas Police Department.

Updated May 3, 2019