A former gang leader was sentenced Monday to 25 years in federal prison for his part in the drive-by killing of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Juan Escalante and other crimes.
Rudy “Lil’ Psycho” Aguirre Jr., the lead defendant in a 2009 indictment targeting the Avenues gang in northeast Los Angeles, also acted as a bridge to the streets for Mexican Mafia members in Pelican Bay State Prison.
A high-ranking associate of the Mexican Mafia with strong family ties to the prison gang, Aguirre was charged in a host of crimes, including the murder of Escalante and several others.
“No matter what steps criminal gangs like the Mexican Mafia and the Avenues use in attempts to control neighborhoods through intimidation and violence, we will ensure that the residents do not need to live their lives and raise their families in fear,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said. “I am proud that my office played an instrumental role in bringing justice to a predator responsible for two murders and overseeing a gang that caused so much harm to northeast Los Angeles.”
According to court documents, 32-year-old Aguirre was authorized by the Mexican Mafia to control the day-to-day activities of the Avenues street gang.
In meetings with members of the prison gang at California penal institutions, he relayed instructions and approval for violent crimes back to the street.
Among other things, Aguirre was given the authority to designate individuals to collect extortionate “taxes” from drug dealers and others living and working in the area claimed by the Avenues gang. These “taxes” would then be funneled to the Mexican Mafia.
As part of his role in the Avenues, Aguirre shot and killed a rival gang member in 1999 in the Cypress Park area, according to his plea agreement.
He also admitted that he authorized the 2008 murder of an Avenues member because he and others believed that man was skimming money collected on behalf of the gang and the Mexican Mafia.
Most of the 88 defendants named in the indictment have previously been sentenced.
A co-defendant – Carlos Renterria, who admitted that he shot two rival gang members in the head at close range in an attempt to murder them, and that he plotted to murder a fellow Avenues gang member – also received a 25-year prison term from U.S. District Judge George H. Wu earlier this month.
Escalante was shot and killed Aug. 2, 2008 outside his Cypress Park home in a case of mistaken identity as he was getting ready to go to work at Men’s Central Jail. The 27-year-old father of three was not in uniform at the time of the drive-by shooting.
Prosecutors said his killers – members of the Avenues gang – believed the deputy was a rival gang member.