Federal prosecutors announced a sweeping racketeering case Wednesday aimed at dismantling the leadership of the Mexican Mafia that controlled street gangs in part of Southern California.
The indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court against three members of the group and 28 associates includes allegations of two murders, six attempted killings, extortion and drug trafficking in Orange County.
“The Mexican Mafia allegedly preyed on vulnerable communities through fear, violence, and intimidation,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. said.
Twenty-one of those charged were already in custody and nine others were arrested in the past two days. One remained a fugitive.
The 106-page indictment charges members of the group with conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, committing violent crimes to aid racketeering, conspiring to traffic drugs, dealing methamphetamine and heroin, and firearms charges.
The Mexican Mafia is made up of the leaders of different street gangs and is largely run from inside California prisons and jails. Leaders direct associates to collect “taxes” on drugs proceeds and order hits on enemies or people who violate their rules.
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.