Suspected members of Mexican drug cartel arrested by ATF

Received an interesting DOJ press release this afternoon that talks about the arrest of four local men involved in running guns and drugs for a Mexican drug cartel, right here in the San Gabriel Valley.
Here’s some of what is says:

An investigation into guns being trafficked from Arizona to California has led to the arrest of four individuals, one of whom sold several machine guns to a undercover operative and claimed to be tied to a Mexican drug cartel.

        The four defendants were arrested early this morning by special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department. During the course of the 10-month investigation, authorities purchased or seized 50 firearms, including 17 guns that were discovered during the execution of search warrants this morning.

        During the investigation, an undercover operative made a series of gun purchases from three of the defendants. The purchases included guns similar to AK-47s, Uzis and AR-15s, some of which were fully automatic weapons.

        Those arrested today are:

  • Edgardo Prado Casteneda, aka “Primo,” 26, of Azusa, who claimed to be a Southern California operative of the La Familia drug cartel based in Michoacan, Mexico;
  • Vicente Garcia Jr., aka “Chevy,” 38, of Azusa;
  • Steven Scott Blanks, 47, of Norco; and
  • Victor Velasquez, aka “Fingers,” 34, of El Monte, who is accused of delivering a quarter-pound of methamphetamine that was purchased by the undercover operative.

The four defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.


 The arrests were made today as Prado apparently made plans to collect a “debt” and possibly kidnap a man he said owed money to La Familia. Over the past several weeks, Prado allegedly had a series of conversations with the undercover operative about helping collect a large “debt” that a man owed to La Familia. According to the affidavit, Prado told the informant that a boss in the cartel that he called “Cuete” had sent a courier to Mexico to transport narcotics, but the courier was arrested and provided information to Mexican authorities that led to the arrest of another high-ranking cartel member in Mexico City. As a result of this, “Cuete” owed the Cartel $3 million. If the informant participated in the collection of the “debt,” Prado promised him a share of money that would be paid by the cartel.

        A criminal complaint filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles charges Prado with selling firearms without a license and distributing methamphetamine.

        Garcia is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

        Blanks is charged with possession of a machine gun.

        Velasquez is charged with distribution of methamphetamine.

        If convicted of the crimes alleged in the criminal complaint, the defendants would face maximum potential sentences of at least 10 years in prison.

An affidavit filed in federal court and attached here details gun deals, drug deals and talk of contract murder and kidnapping. All apparently connected to “La Familia,” a Mexican drug cartel. Here’s all the details 

cartel gun runner – affidavit.pdf


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Motorcycle club mistaken for Mongols in Pico Rivera triple homicide?

PICO RIVERA – Pico Rivera gang members may have targeted the Mongols Motorcycle Club when they shot and killed three people and wounded seven others at a pizza parlor in June.

Officials acknowledged Thursday that a dispute exists between gangsters affiliated with the Mexican Mafia and the Mongols.

“There is an ongoing feud between the Pico Rivera street gangs and the Mongols,” said sheriff’s homicide Sgt. Martin Rodriguez.

Members and associates of the outlaw motorcycle gang attended a fundraiser hosted by Old School Riders at Falcone’s Pizza on June 27, Rodriguez said. The fundraiser came to an abrupt end when two men entered the parking lot and began shooting. As many as 50 people were in attendance.

“There’s people involved in the investigation who had some reported ties to the Mongols motorcycle gangs,” Rodriguez said. “But the vast majority of people there had no association.”

Earlier this week, three men with Pico Rivera gang ties were arrested in connection with the slayings. When the District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges, two were released. The third man remains in custody on unrelated charges, district attorney’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said.

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Baldwin Park politician busted again

BALDWIN PARK – Fullerton police arrested Baldwin Park School Board member Sergio Corona on suspicion of assaulting a woman at an Orange County gas station, authorities said Wednesday.

Corona, 35, and a 38-year-old Baldwin Park woman were reported fighting in the parking lot of a Mobil gas station on July 11, said Lt. Craig Brower with the Fullerton Police Department.

Corona was arrested and cited on suspicion of assault and battery, Brower said. The unidentified woman was neither cited nor arrested.

Corona did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

It was the second time Corona has been arrested since May 2008, when Baldwin Park officers shot him with a Taser after he allegedly broke the windows of a home on Sandstone Street in Baldwin Park.

School board member Jack White said he was not aware of Corona’s most recent arrest, but was concerned about how it would reflect on the district considering Corona’s past.

“I really thought he’d learned his lesson,” White said. “I’m really disappointed if this is the case.”

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Broad daylight shooting at Valinda playground gets Gloria Molina’s attention

A shooting Wednesday afternoon at Sunshine Park in Valinda caused Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina’s office to issue a statement assuring residents that the county is doing everything it can to combat violence in the Valinda corridor.

The shooting is one of several dozen in the neighborhood since March. Sheriff’s detectives note there is a drug/turf battle in the area, with several gangs taking part. 
Here’s the latest story on Wednesday’s shooting and its aftermath.

EAST VALINDA – Deputies are looking for suspects who opened fire at three teens in a drive-by shooting Wednesday afternoon at a crowded park.

No one was injured in the shooting, which occurred about 3 p.m. at Sunshine Park, 515 S. Deepmead Ave.

Sheriff’s Lt. Hiroshi Yokoyama said three teens were walking in the area of the park when a black Nissan, possibly an Altima, drove by.

“The front passenger started shooting at them,” he said.

The teens, ages 16 to 17, fled. Yokoyama said the vehicle carried two to three men, and the shooter used a handgun.

Authorities said the park was full at the time, and the shooting prompted several people to call 9-1-1.

As a result of the incident, Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said park programs have been canceled until further notice.

“We have worked very hard to create a safe, beautiful and user-friendly park,” Molina said in a statement.

“I am outraged at today’s act of violence at our park – a place our community considers a haven and where our children and families gather.”

View Sunshine Park in a larger map

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Temple City graft probe detailed in grand jury transcripts


Here’s the Temple City grand jury transcripts Part 1 (5.1 MB) and

 Part 2 (5.1 MB).

They are lengthy and detailed, but a great insight into just how sleazy local politics can become when a $75 million development is at stake.

Not only do witness tell of bribery, greed, money laundering and back rooms deals, there’s also talk of voodoo rituals performed by former mayor Judy Wong.

Read ’em and enjoy!

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Sports writer’s freelance job runs afoul of the law

From the Boston Herald:

A longtime sports writer for the Union Leader newspaper has been suspended after being arrested earlier today for pimping out a prostitute at a Marriott hotel in Andover.
Kevin Provencher, 50, of Manchester, N.H., was scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in Lawrence District Court on two counts of deriving support from a prostitute. 

He was picked up in New Hampshire earlier today.

The Union Leader issued a statement: ‘Mr. Provencher has been a valued employee for many years. He is innocent until proven guilty. However, given the nature and seriousness of the charges, he is suspended until further notice.”

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Far from a Fortune: Detroit man says stress led to bank robberies

Only in Detroit would a bank robber have the last name Fortune. This one’s for the 211 Guy:

DETROIT — A Detroit man who said he started robbing banks to pay for his mother’s plumbing was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison, a lenient term from a judge who said the defendant had been an “outstanding citizen” before his crime spree.

Prosecutors wanted U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman to stick with federal sentencing guidelines, which would have given Jimmie Lee Fortune five years to six years in prison for stealing nearly $14,000 from five Michigan banks. Fortune, 29, had pleaded guilty in March, with prosecutors agreeing not to charge him with three more robberies.

Fortune had told investigators that he robbed the first bank in April 2008 to fix his mother’s plumbing and get his driver’s license reinstated. After that, he just kept going.

“I was so stressed and depressed,” he told U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman on Tuesday. “I found it difficult to separate life from fiction.”

He entered banks demanding money and yelling threats such as, “Large bills or I’ll start shooting,” according to the FBI. Fortune was not armed during the robberies.

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Yum Yum: beer runs, drowning dogs, Octomom and a mental health task force at Caltech

Fish wrap for the afternoon:

Another Yum Yum doughnut shop targeted by 211 artists in Baldwin Park
Covina reports three arrests after beer run and short pursuit
Covina cop saves a dog from drowning
Octomom’s kids can’t be filmed for a while
Suicides among Asian students cause concern at Caltech
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Lily Burk updates

Susan Estrich writes about the case as a parent’s worst nightmare at NewsMax this a.m. The interesting connection here is perhaps Estrich’s link to Michael Dukakis and the whole uproar over Willie Horton back in 1988:

You just have to see the picture of her: a girl on the verge, finding her style, raising her voice, about to embark on a life she could barely yet imagine. This summer she was supposed to volunteer helping homeless drug addicts on Skid Row. Instead, according to police, she was killed by one.

Her mother is a lawyer and law professor, her father a journalist. She was driving a Volvo.

Forgive me for identifying: When my daughter was her age, barely two years ago, she got an advance for her first novel, “Hancock Park,” about a girl like Lily. Many of the girls at her school drove expensive, not to mention dangerous (in my book), cars. I smiled because the other used Volvo belonged to a girl whose mother is also a sensible lawyer, which is what I like to think I am. Like Lily’s mother.

A man abducted Lily across the street from her mother’s office in what was once the Bullocks Wilshire, which Southwestern Law School converted into classrooms, offices, and an impressive library.

Lily called both of her parents to ask how she could withdraw money from an ATM with her credit card so she could buy shoes.

Her parents said she sounded rushed, not scared.

She was dead in her car before her parents got home from work.

The guy they picked up, with her car key and cell phone, was arrested because he was clearly a junkie who’d done something wrong. While being held on unrelated charges, 50-year-old parolee Charlie Samuel was tied to Lily’s murder two days later by fingerprints at the scene.

Some people (many of them formerly liberal) are screaming that he’s a repeat offender and parole violator who should’ve been locked up …

On the jump, what the DA said late Tuesday about the case against Charles Samuel, the parolee accused of abducting 17-year-old Lily Burk then killing her late last week:

Continue reading “Lily Burk updates” »

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Arrests but no charges in Pico Rivera triple homicide — suspects released

This from reporter Tracy Garcia:

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against three Whittier-area men in connection with a fatal shooting at a Pico Rivera pizza parlor, asking sheriff’s investigators instead to go back and do more work on the case.

As such, two of the three suspects — Rudy Ruiz, 30, of unincorporated Whittier, and Christopher Johnson, 18, of Montebello — have been released, according to sheriff’s Capt. Mike Rothans of the Pico Rivera station.

The third suspect, John Perez, 43, of Pico Rivera, remains in custody on a prior arrest, Rothans said.

The trio had been booked Friday on suspicion of murder in the June 27 shooting at Falcone’s Pizza, where a fundraiser was being hosted in the parking lot by the Old School Riders motorcycle club.

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