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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 14, 2020

Three Associates Of Nuestra Familia Prison Gang Plead Guilty To Federal RICO Conspiracy

Conspirators admit their roles in violent crimes in Monterey County Jail to maintain gang discipline and punish transgressions of gang rules

SAN JOSE – Johnny Magdaleno, a/k/a Soldier Boy, Rodney Luis Romero, a/k/a Speedy, and Carlos Cervantes, a/k/a Lil Huero, a/k/a Doug, pleaded guilty today to racketeering conspiracy charges for their respective roles as associates of the Nuestra Familia prison gang, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and John F. Bennett, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s San Francisco Field Division.  The guilty pleas were accepted by the Honorable Beth L. Freeman, United States District Judge.

According to the plea agreements, between December 2, 2012, and April 14, 2014, Magdaleno, 32, Romero, 35, and Cervantes, 31, were members of the Nuestra Familia/Salinas Norteños enterprise (the “Enterprise”).  The Enterprise consisted of members and associates of the Nuestra Familia prison gang as well as Norteño street gangs in Salinas, Calif., and the surrounding areas.  Members and associates of the Enterprise agreed to commit crimes such as murder, narcotics trafficking, and other acts of violence through a pattern of racketeering activity.  Norteño gang members pledge their allegiance and loyalty to Nuestra Familia and are instructed on its rules, rituals, and obligations.  Gang rules and discipline are maintained by assaulting and threatening those individuals who violate the rules or pose a threat to the organization.  Inside prisons and local jails, all members and associates of Nuestra Familia and Norteños work together to maintain the structure and follow the rules of the Enterprise.

In their plea agreements, Magdaleno, Romero, and Cervantes admit to participating in the distribution of narcotics to other inmates at Monterey County Jail.  The plea agreements also describe the roles of the defendants in “removals” as a means of violently enforcing the most important of the gang’s rules while they were in the jail.  The term “removal” refers to a violent attack designed to remove (from both the custodial housing unit and the gang itself) a member of the gang who committed a serious violation of the gang’s rules.  A removal is accomplished by having one or more “hitters” stab the victim and then having at least two “bombers” assault the target by punching and kicking the victim without weapons.  The purpose of the subsequent beating is to inflict upon the victim maximum damage while giving the hitters time to wash themselves and get rid of weapons. 

Magdaleno admitted that he orchestrated four removals of victims from housing units of the Monterey County Jail and directly participated in two of those removals as the hitter.  For example, Magdaleno admitted that he orchestrated and participated as the hitter in the December 2, 2012, removal of a victim from the jail.  Magdaleno admitted that he stabbed the victim in the chest and back over 20 times.  Magdaleno acknowledged that immediately after the victim was stabbed, two bombers began punching and kicking the victim to allow Magdaleno to escape being caught by guards with the stabbing weapon.  Magdaleno also admitted that he orchestrated and participated as the hitter in the February 25, 2013, removal of a victim from the jail.  Magdaleno admitted that he gave the victim marijuana to use so that he would be more vulnerable and let his guard down; and after doing so, Magdaleno stabbed the victim in the head with a shank.  Immediately after the victim was stabbed, three bombers began punching and kicking the victim to allow Magdaleno to escape being caught by guards with the stabbing weapon.  Magdaleno admitted that after he disposed of the shank, he joined the other bombers in beating the victim.  

Romero admitted that he approved the February 25, 2013, removal of a victim from one of the housing units of the Monterey County Jail.  Romero admitted that during the removal, the hitter stabbed the victim in the head, and immediately thereafter three bombers began to punch and kick the victim to inflict the maximum damage possible and to allow the hitter to escape without being caught by guards with the stabbing weapon.  Romero also admitted to helping plan two other removals on April 29 and October 23, 2013.  Romero admitted that he relayed the leadership’s approval for the removals, which involved a hitter stabbing the April 29 victim in the head with a metal shank and a hitter stabbing the October 23 victim in the neck with a weapon made out of plexiglass.  In both removals, bombers punched and kicked the victim to inflict the maximum damage possible and to allow the hitters to escape without being caught by guards with the stabbing weapons.

Cervantes admitted that he participated in the April 29, 2013, removal of a victim from one of the housing units at the Monterey County Jail.  Cervantes admitted that he was the hitter for the removal and stabbed the victim in the head.  Cervantes acknowledged that immediately after the victim was stabbed, at least four bombers began punching and kicking the victim to allow Cervantes to escape being caught by guards with the stabbing weapon.  Cervantes also admitted that he was a bomber in the February 25, 2013, removal of a victim, and that he punched and kicked the victim to inflict the maximum damage possible and to allow the hitter to escape.

On September 27, 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Magdaleno, Romero, Cervantes, and several other defendants with racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d).  Magdaleno, Romero, and Cervantes were also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5), and conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(6).  Romero was also charged with attempted murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5), and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3).  All three defendants pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy charge, wherein they admitted that murder was an object of the conspiracy.  If they comply with their plea agreements, the additional charges will be dismissed at sentencing.

Judge Freeman scheduled the sentencing hearing for Cervantes for May 19, 2020; and the sentencing hearings for Magdaleno and Romero for June 23, 2020.  Pursuant to the terms of their plea agreements, Magdaleno has agreed that a reasonable and appropriate disposition of his case would include a term of imprisonment of 30 years to run concurrently with sentences imposed in connection with a number of state court convictions; Romero has agreed that a reasonable and appropriate disposition of his case would include a term of imprisonment of 18 years; and Cervantes has agreed that a reasonable and appropriate disposition of his case would include a term of imprisonment of 10 years.  However, any sentence will 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 following additional defendants have pleaded guilty to crimes as part of the criminal Enterprise and have been sentenced or are scheduled to be sentenced in the case:

Name Charges Sentence
Alberto Moreno, a/k/a Doughboy Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)  Sentenced to seven years in prison
Michael James Rice a/k/a Redwood Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) Scheduled for March 3, 2020
Jeffrey Lopez, a/k/a T-Bone Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)  Scheduled for March 17, 2020
Juan Alvarez, a/k/a Chucky Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)  Scheduled for March 31, 2020 
Ramon Montoya, a/k/a Little Ray Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) Scheduled for March 31, 2020
Erik Lopez, a/k/a Bimbo Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) Scheduled for April 7, 2020
Alejo Alex Alegre, IV, a/k/a Chino Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) Scheduled for May 5, 2020

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Claudia A. Quiroz and Stephen Meyer are prosecuting the case.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI with assistance from the Salinas Police Department, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Updated February 14, 2020