Two Associates Of Nuestra Familia Prison Gang Plead Guilty To Federal RICO Conspiracy
Conspirators Admit Their Respective Roles In Violent Crimes in Monterey County Jail to Maintain Discipline Of Gang Members And Punish Transgressions of Gang Rules
SAN JOSE- Michael Rice, a/k/a Redwood, and Alberto Moreno, a/k/a Doughboy, pleaded guilty today to racketeering conspiracy charge for their respective roles as associates of the Nuestra Familia prison gang, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett. The guilty pleas were accepted by the Honorable Beth L. Freeman, United States District Judge.
“Defendants Rice and Moreno conspired and racketeered while in county jail to punish gang members who did not follow gang rules,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson. “Their conduct underscores the risks of depending on county jails to deter and punish serious criminal offenders. I hope and trust that a federal sentence will send a stronger message to these and other would-be offenders.”
“Michael Rice and Alberto Moreno have admitted today to participating in brutally violent attacks and other crimes to further the control and criminal activities of the Nuestra Familia prison gang,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Bennett. “The FBI would like to thank our Monterey County law enforcement partners for working with us to identify, stop, and prosecute this organized violence.”
According to the plea agreements, between December 2, 2012, and April 14, 2014, both defendants were members of the Nuestra Familia/Salinas Norteños 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, Rice, 35, and Moreno, 26, admit to participating in the distribution of narcotics to other inmates at Monterey County Jail. Also, the plea agreements 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. Rice admitted that in February of 2013, he was the prison gang’s “Overall Authority” in one of Monterey County Jail’s housing units and he consented to the removal of a gang prisoner who committed a serious violation of gang rules. The victim was stabbed in the head by a hitter and immediately thereafter was punched and kicked by several bombers. Rice further admitted that he approved the removal of another victim who was assaulted on April 29, 2013. On that day, the victim was stabbed in the head by the hitter and then punched and kicked by several bombers. Moreno admitted that he participated as a bomber in the April 29, 2013, attack.
On September 27, 2018, a federal grand jury indicted Rice, Moreno and several other defendants with racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). Both Rice and Moreno also were 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). Both 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 defendant Moreno’s sentencing for January 7, 2020, and defendant Rice’s sentencing for March 3, 2020. The defendants face a maximum statutory sentence of life in prison, five years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Pursuant to their plea agreements, defendant Rice has agreed to a sentence of 13 years and defendant Moreno has agreed to a sentence of seven years, both subject to final approval by the Court at their respective sentencings. 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.
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.