Federal Racketeering Probe Targets East L.A. Street Gang

December 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A law enforcement sweep Wednesday resulted in the arrests of more than two dozen suspected members of a Mexican Mafia-linked street gang that federal authorities say has terrorized residents of the Ramona Gardens housing complex in Boyle Heights for decades.

Of the 29 people arrested during the raids – which involved about 800 law enforcement personnel – 25 were among 38 named in a federal indictment targeting the Big Hazard gang that authorities contend has been operating in the Boyle Heights area for 70 years.

Seven other defendants were already in custody, five remain at large and one was killed over the weekend, federal prosecutors said.

As a result of the investigation, another five people were separately indicted on narcotics charges, and four of them were also arrested today, prosecutors said.

The initial indictment outlines alleged criminal acts dating back to 2007, including drug deals, intimidation, violence against people believed to have cooperated with law enforcement, illegal weapons sales and threats against black residents of Ramona Gardens, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

A 110-page indictment unsealed today details dozens of drug deals, acts of intimidation and violence against people be-
lieved to have cooperated with law enforcement, illegal weapons sales, and threats made against black residents of Ramona Gardens, which includes tagging with phrases such as “no blacks.”

The Hazard gang takes its name from a park near Ramona Gardens and is currently believed to have around 350 members. Much of the conduct is alleged in a racketeering charge that outlines a conspiracy to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which federal authorities in Los Angeles have successfully used for two decades to battle prison gangs and street gangs.

“All of the gang’s operations were done under the umbrella of intimidation — making threats and then committing acts of violence against rival gangsters, law-abiding members of the community and Hazard gang members who might be cooperating with authorities,” said Acting United States Attorney Stephanie Yonekura.

“The intimidation and threats extended to African-American residents of Ramona Gardens,” she said. “In stark and simple messages delivered in person and through graffiti, the Hazard gang made it clear that black residents were not welcome in the neighborhood that it claimed to control.”

The gang’s main business is drug trafficking, according to the indictment, which details more than three dozen narcotics transactions involving as much as nearly one-half pound of methamphetamine.

To conceal the drug business and expand its territory, Hazard members took steps to prevent law enforcement from infiltrating the gang’s activities – steps that include closed-circuit TV surveillance at drug houses, making bogus complaints about police officers in an attempt to have them moved to patrol other areas of Los Angeles, and threatening and assaulting local residents who cooperate with law enforcement, prosecutors said.

The Hazard gang is closely aligned with the Mexican Mafia, and many members of the prison gang have come from Hazard.

The lead defendant in the 45-count indictment is Manuel “Cricket” Larry Jackson, a Mexican Mafia member who allegedly oversees the activities of the Hazard gang.

The indictment alleges that under Jackson’s control, the gang commits a wide variety of crimes, most significantly drug trafficking, which generates revenues through the sale of narcotics and the “taxing” of drug dealers who operate in Hazard territory. Some of the revenues generated through “taxes” or “rent” are funneled back to Jackson and other members of the Mexican Mafia, according to the government.

“Calling yourself a ‘taxing’ authority gets the attention of the Internal Revenue Service,” said IRS Criminal Investigations Special Agent in Charge Erick Martinez. “The role of IRS Criminal Investigation in narcotics investigations is to follow the money so we can financially disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations. Undermining the financial infrastructure of narcotics trafficking organizations has proven to be one of the most effective means to disrupt the market for illegal drugs.”

The federal indictment that led to Wednesday’s takedown charges a total of 38 defendants – although one of those defendants was killed this past weekend.

Including Jackson, 29 of the defendants are charged in a racketeering conspiracy count that outlines activities of the gang, its allegiance to the Mexican Mafia and the various tactics it employs to impose fear in the community. The indictment also alleges several violent acts in aid of racketeering, about three dozen narcotics offenses and several crimes related to the illegal possession of firearms.

“Because of defendant Jackson’s power as a Mexican Mafia member and his connection to Hazard, Hazard members and associates have unique authority to engage in criminal activities, such as the sales of drugs and firearms outside of Hazard territory without the risk of violent reprisal that Latino gang members ordinarily would suffer for engaging in such criminal activities in territories controlled by other Latino gangs,” according to the indictment.

The gang “is continually engaged in the distribution of methamphetamine, phencyclidine ¬– PCP – cocaine, cocaine base in the form of crack cocaine, heroin and other controlled substances,” the indictment alleges.

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