US: 31 Alleged Mexican Mafia People Indicted On Racketeering, Murder, Drug, Gun Charges

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By Tori B. Powell

CBS News

Three alleged Orange County, California Mexican Mafia members and 28 alleged associates are facing a series of charges as a result of a years-long investigation, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday. The defendants are facing charges that include murder, attempted murder, drug and gun related charges as well as racketeering offenses.

According to a criminal complaint that was unsealed Wednesday, defendants Johnny Martinez, Robert Aguirre and Dennis Ortiz were allegedly in charge of “criminal activities” throughout Orange County, California, and within the area’s prisons and jails between 2016 and 2022. The 33-count indictment also accuses multiple defendants of working as “mouthpieces,” representatives and secretaries for the three members.

The Mexican Mafia, otherwise known as La Eme, consists of senior members of Latino street gangs who’ve joined together to rule and profit from other California gangs, according to the DOJ. The members allegedly divvied up control across various areas throughout the Southern California and would receive “taxes” paid by gangs so as to allow drug distribution within the area.

Over the course of around six years, the OC Mexican Mafia is accused of committing violent crimes including armed robbery, several brutal murders, including one inside a correctional facility, and multiple attempted murders.

The group is also accused of engaging in drug distribution, which carries a maximum life sentence in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five to 10 years, the DOJ said. The Justice Department said that, as part of an investigation, undercover authorities conducted multiple purchases of methamphetamine and heroin from OC Mexican Mafia associates.

Among the 31 defendants charged, 21 were already in custody while nine were arrested either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

United States attorney Tracy L. Wilkison vowed to “continue to investigate, arrest and prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law to restore a sense of safety to so many neighborhoods that have felt the impact of their destructive conduct.”

“The violence, drug-dealing and other criminal acts being committed in our communities by gangsters associated with the Mexican Mafia is being met with the strongest possible response by law enforcement,” she said.

Over the course of around six years, the OC Mexican Mafia is accused of committing violent crimes including armed robbery, several brutal murders, including one inside a correctional facility, and multiple attempted murders.

The group is also accused of engaging in drug distribution, which carries a maximum life sentence in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five to 10 years, the DOJ said. The Justice Department said that, as part of an investigation, undercover authorities conducted multiple purchases of methamphetamine and heroin from OC Mexican Mafia associates.

Among the 31 defendants charged, 21 were already in custody while nine were arrested either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

United States attorney Tracy L. Wilkison vowed to “continue to investigate, arrest and prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law to restore a sense of safety to so many neighborhoods that have felt the impact of their destructive conduct.”

“The violence, drug-dealing and other criminal acts being committed in our communities by gangsters associated with the Mexican Mafia is being met with the strongest possible response by law enforcement,” she said.

For decades, Peter Ojeda was the head of the Mexican Mafia in Orange County, calling shots from inside prison. After his death in 2018, at least three men filled the leadership void, prosecutors said.

The violent crimes alleged against the OC Mexican Mafia include:

  • the Jan. 19, 2017, armed robbery and shooting death of R.R.;
  • the Aug. 21, 2017, shooting death of R.V., who was shot seven times in the back of the head and body, and left dead on the street in Orange;
  • the Aug. 5, 2017, attempted murder of defendant Munoz, who had fallen out of favor with the OC Mexican Mafia and was shot seven times;
  • the Dec. 1, 2017, attempted murder of D.D., a representative of a Latino street gang, who was allegedly abusing his power and authority within the OC Mexican Mafia enterprise;
  • the Dec. 12, 2017, attempted murder of E.O., an OC Mexican Mafia associate incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison, who was believed to have violated the OC Mexican Mafia’s code by warning individuals that they were targeted for violence by the OC Mexican Mafia, and who suffered multiple injuries, including puncture wounds to his torso;
  • the Dec. 25, 2017, attempted murder of R.M. for showing disrespect to defendant Johnny Martinez;
  • the July 29, 2020, attempted murder of F.B., a member of an Orange County Latino street gang incarcerated at the Theo Lacy Facility, who was targeted because he purportedly claimed that he would speak to law enforcement about the Mexican Mafia, and whose throat was slit; and
  • two murder attempts on Jan. 5, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2019, of defendant Cooper, who had fallen out of favor with defendants Johnny Martinez and Aguirre, and who in one incident was stabbed multiple times in the head and back area, and in the second was cut in the throat and face.

The Mexican Mafia started in the 1950s at a juvenile jail and grew to an international criminal organization that has controlled smuggling, drug sales and extortion inside California’s jail system, which is the largest in the U.S.

 

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