AUG 6 (LOS ANGELES) –A coalition of federal, state and local authorities this morning arrested eight defendants named in a federal grand jury indictment that outlines an alliance between the Mexican Mafia prison gang and the La Familia Michoacána drug cartel that sought to protect and expand the cartel’s drug trafficking activities across the nation.
The seven-count indictment – which names six members of the Mexican Mafia, three associates of the prison gang, and four people directly linked to the La Familia cartel – outlines a venture between the criminal organizations that participants referred to as the “Project,” and which involved the highest levels of La Familia. The indictment alleges that participants in the Project sought to give La Familia members “free rein” to sell methamphetamine in Southern California and to provide protection for incarcerated cartel members in exchange for money and methamphetamine going to Mexican Mafia members.
Anthony Williams, DEA Special Agent in Charge, commented: “This multi-agency, coordinated investigation identified a network of drug traffickers tied directly to one of the most violent Mexican drug cartels – La Familia or the Knights Templar. Today’s enforcement efforts will help to reduce the damaging impact of this brutal organization by arresting key members and associates of the La Familia cartel and disrupting their distribution networks in the Los Angeles area.”
The indictment that outlines the Project and related drug trafficking names 13 defendants, eight of whom were arrested this morning. Four were already in custody prior to today’s arrests and one is a fugitive. During the course of this investigation, authorities seized more than 600 pounds of methamphetamine and charged an additional six defendants in state court.
A second indictment unsealed this morning concerns the Mexican Mafia and its control over the Florencia 13 criminal street gang in south Los Angeles County. This indictment charges 31 defendants and alleges violations of the federal racketeering (RICO) statute, as well as a host of narcotics, firearms, and fraud offenses. Florencia 13 is one of the largest, most powerful and oldest street gangs in Southern California. Several members of the gang have risen through its ranks to become leaders of the Mexican Mafia. The indictment unsealed today focuses on how the gang has generated illicit profits through the sale of drugs and firearms, fraud, and extortion. The indictment alleges that two incarcerated Mexican Mafia members are the leaders of the Florencia 13 gang, and that they directed the activities of the street gang from a California state prison and received payments derived from the gang’s illegal activities. During this morning’s takedown, 14 of the 31 defendants named in this indictment were taken into custody. Three of the defendants were previously arrested in this case before today’s enforcement activities, and eight are fugitives. An additional six defendants were already in custody prior to today’s takedown in connection with state charges.
“Today’s salvo against the Mexican Mafia is part of a 20-year fight to curb the influence of the prison gang both inside prison walls and on the streets of Southern California,” said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. “We successfully dismantled the gang’s leadership structure in prior cases, causing chaos throughout the organization. Now we have demonstrated our ability to stop the Mexican Mafia from realizing a new power base by disrupting the gang’s plot to establish a threatening alliance with a major drug trafficking organization.”
“These two investigations disrupted the criminal activities of the Mexican Mafia, the Los Angeles street gang Florencia 13, and the Mexican Mafia’s relationship with the La Familia drug cartel, which is responsible for using firearms to commit violent crimes and trafficking hundreds of thousands of pounds of controlled substances into the United States,” Said Steven J. Bogdalek, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division. “By combining law enforcement resources, we were able to curtail their ability to build alliances and prevent their violence from spreading further into our communities.”
The Mexican Mafia is a powerful prison gang that controls much of the drug trade and other criminal activities within California state prisons, county jails and some federal prisons, according to the indictments unsealed this morning. The Mexican Mafia, whose members are generally senior members of street gangs such as Florencia 13, also exercises control over and directs the narcotics trafficking activities of Latino street gangs across Southern California and in prisons. The indictment concerning the Mexican Mafia-La Familia Project represents the largest crackdown on the prison gang’s members since the United States Attorney’s Office brought a series of RICO cases against the leadership of the prison gang in the 1990s.
La Familia Michoacana and it successor, Los Caballeros Templarios (the Knights Templar), is a major drug cartel based in the Mexican state of Michoacán and “is responsible for the trafficking of hundreds of thousands of pounds of controlled substances, including methamphetamine, from Mexico into the United States,” according to the indictment.
The members of La Familia named in the indictment allegedly oversaw the distribution of methamphetamine and marijuana in the Southern California area, as well as provided money and drugs at discounted prices to members of the Mexican Mafia.
As part of the alliance between the criminal enterprises, the indicted members and associates of the Mexican Mafia helped La Familia distribute narcotics “by ordering, instructing, and informing Hispanic gang members to protect La Familia drug shipments and sales, to prevent criminal taxation of La Familia drug shipments and sales, and to collect drug debts,” according to the indictment, which also alleges that Mexican Mafia members would protect incarcerated members of La Familia.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca stated: “The successful results of this joint operation allowed law enforcement to intervene in the development of a very strong and powerful merger between dangerous criminal organizations. We believe that we have initiated a crippling effect to those members who are still loyal to the Mexican Mafia criminal organization.”
Larry Miranda, Chief of the Office of Correctional Safety for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said: “One of the most chilling aspects of this investigation was the budding relationship between the Mexican Mafia and the La Familia/Knights Templar, showing how two powerful organizations attempted to combine their efforts to control prison facilities and the communities in which we live. The investigators have done a magnificent job at thwarting this relationship. Their tireless efforts, commitment to their agencies, and dedication to their communities have led law enforcement to a victory in the continuing battle against the gangs and drugs that plague our communities.”
Those named in the indictment are:
All 13 defendants are charged in count one of the indictment, which outlines the Mexican Mafia-La Familia alliance and alleges a conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Various defendants are charged in six other counts in the indictment that allege substantive narcotics-distribution offenses, five of which relate to methamphetamine and one of which concerns marijuana.
The conspiracy charge and the counts related to methamphetamine each carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison (20 years if the defendant has a prior drug conviction, which may affect about half of the defendants in the indictment) and a maximum statutory sentence of life without parole. The marijuana count carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison (10 years if the defendant has a prior narcotics conviction) and a statutory maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
The indictments targeting the Mexican Mafia and the La Familia drug cartel are the result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department; and the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)/Southern California Drug Task Force, a federally funded group led by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The Southern California Drug Task Force is comprised of federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the DEA, the ATF, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Pasadena Police Department.