Twenty-two people named in two federal grand jury indictments outlining an alliance between the Mexican Mafia prison gang, a South Los Angeles street gang and a drug cartel were arrested Tuesday in a series of Southern California raids.
The crackdown is being hailed as a major blow to efforts by the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel to extend its reach into Southern California, and to protect and expand the cartel’s drug trafficking activities across the U.S.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.
The first indictment names 13 defendants – eight of whom were arrested Tuesday, four who were already in custody and one who remains a fugitive, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The seven-count indictment names six members of the Mexican Mafia, three associates of the gang, and four people directly linked to the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel, which, according to the indictment, “is responsible for the trafficking of hundreds of thousands of pounds of controlled substances, including methamphetamine, from Mexico into the United States.”
Authorities say 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…. Its “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,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
The indictment outlines a venture between the two criminal organizations that participants referred to as the “Project” and which involved the highest levels of La Familia, authorities said.
They allege 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.
A second indictment unsealed Tuesday targeted the Mexican Mafia and its control over the Florencia 13 criminal street gang in south Los Angeles County. Forencia 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, according to a statement from the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Attorney.
That indictment charges 31 defendants and alleges violations of the federal racketeering statute, as well as numerous narcotics, firearms and fraud offenses. Fourteen people named in the indictment were arrested during Tuesday’s takedown. Three of those named were previously arrested and eight are fugitives. Six other defendants were already in custody in connection with the charges.
“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.”
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 joint operation “allowed law enforcement to intervene in the development of a very strong and powerful merger between dangerous criminal organizations, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.
“We believe that we have initiated a crippling effect to those members who are still loyal to the Mexican Mafia criminal organization.”
The indictments targeting the Mexican Mafia and the La Familia drug cartel resulted from an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; and the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area/Southern California Drug Task Force, a federally funded group led by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The Southern California task force included federal and local law enforcement agencies, among them the DEA, the ATF and officers from the Los Angeles, Montebello and Pasadena police departments.