LOS ANGELES — Two brothers accused of leading the Mexican Mafia-affiliated Puente 13 street gang were sentenced this week to life in prison as part of an ongoing investigation targeting the gang.
Longtime Puente 13 leader Rafael “Cisco” Munoz-Gonzalez, 42, of La Puente received his sentence Wednesday from U.S. District Court Judge A. Howard Matz, U.S. Department of Justice officials said in a written statement.
“Rafael Gonzalez was one of the most prominent Mexican Mafia members active on the street,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Pelham said. The vast majority of Mexican Mafia members are currently behind bars.
Furthermore, Pelham said, Rafael Munoz-Gonzalez was not merely heading the 600-member street gang. “What he was trying to do with Puente was expand it.”
Cisco was determined to grow Puente 13 to grow beyond it’s claimed “turf” of La Puente, Hacienda Heights, Walnut and West Covina and unincorporated areas in between to include Bassett, Valinda and Azusa — which are already claimed by local street gangs.
“He was definitely going to war with Azusa (13),” Pelham said.
His brother, 38-year-old Cesar “Blanco” Munoz-Gonzalez of Rowland Heights, received his sentence Tuesday in federal court, officials said.
He took over for Rafael Munoz-Gonzalez while the gang leader served a prison sentence, Pelham said.
Since there is no parole in the federal prison system, the men are expected to spend the rest of their lives behind bars, officials said.
At the conclusion of a trial in December, the brothers were convicted of violating the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organizations Act, along with committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering, engaging in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, weapons charges and other offenses, according to the DOJ.
“The evidence presented at trial proved that, among other criminal offenses, Rafael Munoz-Gonzalez ordered an attack on a witness who was cooperating with federal investigators in this case,” the DOJ statement said.
The attack took place in May of 2009 at the federal jail in Downtown Los Angeles, “where (the victim) was stabbed 22 times and beaten over the head, suffering a punctured lung and fractured skull,” according to the statement and Pelham.
While Rafael Munoz-Gonzalez was serving time prior to 2007, according to the DOJ statement, “his brother Cesar trafficked large amounts of methamphetamine with other gang members, spoke on his brother’s behalf at gang meetings, directed other members of Puente 13 to collect ‘tax’ payments from area drug dealers on Rafael’s behalf, and warded off rival drug traffickers by announcing that certain Puente 13 drug stash houses were untouchable because they were ‘protected by Cisco.’”
Rafael also picked up new charges while imprisoned between 2000 and 2007 following a methamphetamine trafficking conviction, Pelham said.
He participated in a race riot in which he stomped on the head of a black inmate, the prosecutor said. In the brawl, the Mexican Mafia had allied itself with the white supremacist Aryan Brotherhood gang against black rivals.
Also recently sentenced to lengthy prison terms after being convicted in December’s federal trial were two other Puente 13 members: Abraham “Listo” Aldana, 20, of West Covina and Michael “Mikey” Torres, 43, of La Puente, officials said.
Aldana was sentenced Monday to 27 years in federal prison, DOJ officials said.
“After Aldana was released from Pelican Bay State Prison in 2008, he became one of Rafael Munoz-Gonzalez’s most aggressive lieutenants, collecting tax payments and helping facilitate the conspiracy to murder and assault rival gang members,” according to the DOJ statement.
Torres received a 25-year prison sentence Feb. 26 after being convicted of racketeering, drug and gun charges. DOJ officials described him as a “key player” in the Puente 13’s drug trafficking.
“From at least 2000, all four defendants were personally involved in the manufacturing and distribution of large quantities of methamphetamine, and they used violence to monopolize the drug trade in La Puente and extract taxes from gang members and non-gang members who also sold methamphetamine in the area,” the DOJ statement said.
The sentencings stemmed from an ongoing federal investigation into Puente 13 launched in 2008.
As a result of the investigation, officials said, federal investigators have obtained four indictments, resulting in the convictions of about 60 gang members and associates. The Drug Enforcement Administration and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigators working the case have also seized of 77 guns, 12 pounds of methamphetamine and $1.1 million in cash and other assets.
PHOTO of Rafael Munoz-Gonzalez courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office