A major bust targeting street gangs associated with the Mexican Mafia shed some light on the slaying of a 28-year-old mother last month. In court documents behind the bust, federal agents linked the victim sales of methamphetamine and heroin on behalf of an OC gang. Robert Kovacik reports for NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2013.
Agents investigating members of a violent gang in Orange County with ties to the Mexican Mafia uncovered a connection between a mother found dead on Labor Day under a bridge and the suspect in her death.
The information is included in a 30-page indictment in the Operation Smokin' Aces criminal gang sweep executed Tuesday in Orange County. The details provide insight into the death of 28-year-old Nancy Hammour, found face-down Sept. 2 under the Newport Bay Bridge in a waterway that connects to the Balboa Marina.
A coroner's investigation determined Hammour, a mother of two children, died from a gunshot wound. One child was born just months before the slaying.
Jaime Rocha, 40, of Santa Ana, was arrested Sept. 9 and booked on suspicion of murder.
At the time, authorities did not have information regarding a possible connection between the victim and suspect. But the indictment involving more than 100 individuals -- identified by federal investigators as members and associates of the Mexican Mafia -- indicates Hammour distributed drugs for the gang operation.
Hammour sold drugs to an informant in February and was recorded speaking with a dealer, according to the indictment released Tuesday.
The crimes mentioned in the Operation Smokin' Aces indictment include murder, extortion and distribution of narcotics -- methamphetamine, heroine and cocaine. The original investigation focused on a street gang in a Santa Ana neighborhood, but expanded when investigators discovered the link to the Mexican Mafia -- payments from the OC gangs in exchange for freely committing crimes, according to the court documents.
Those who refused to pay were the targets of often violent retribution, and top-ranking gang members were not immune. The indictment indicates that one defendant with a significant role in the gang was on a "hard candy" list -- he was targeted for death.
The target was beaten by other Mexican Mafia members for insulting another gang member and violating leadership rules.
The group has long been suspected of controlling drug distribution from within California jails and prisons and on the street. The indictment identifies several girlfriends or wives of inmates and gang members as messengers and drug smugglers.
Agents seized 22 pounds of methamphetamine, 1 1/2 pounds of heroin, 3 pounds of cocaine and made 67 undercover weapon purchases as part of the investigation.
Rocha is not named in the indictment, but he does have a criminal history and gang ties, according to investigators. He is being held on $1 million bond.
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