LOS ANGELES >> Three gang members, including a “shot caller” who directed the gang on behalf of the Mexican Mafia, each received sentences of more than decade in prison stemming from a federal investigation targeting the El Monte Flores gang, authorities announced Friday.
Mexican Mafia shot caller James “Chemo” Gutierrez, 53, and EMF gang member Kenneth Cofer, 37, were sentenced Thursday to 15 years in federal prison each, while co-defendant and fellow EMF member John Rivera, 54, was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months behind bars, U.S. Department of Justice Spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
“We now have secured lengthy prison terms for key members of one of the oldest street gangs in Los Angeles County after using the federal racketeering statute to dismantle the organization’s leadership structure,” according to U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Eileen M. Decker.
But the fight against gangs continues.
“Even with significant gains made by law enforcement, street gangs remain one of the most dangerous criminal elements in the region and a significant contributor to violent crime,” Decker said. “We are committed, however, to restoring order in neighborhoods affected by the violence and drug trafficking perpetrated by street gangs like the El Monte Flores gang.”
Gutierrez and Cofer pleaded guilty in April to violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, conspiracy to distribute drugs and conspiracy to launder money in connection with a 61-count indictment targeting 41 EMF members first unsealed in 2014.
Gutierrez served as a “shot caller,” directing activities of EMF at the behest of the Mexican Mafia.
Gutierrez acknowledged in his plea that he regularly extorted “taxes” from drug dealers operating in EMF’s claimed territory, and had authorized an attack on a rival gang member, Mrozek said. Prosecutors noted he has a lengthy criminal history, including a racketeering-related murder convictions that resulted in a 20-year prison sentence.
Gutierrez served a “pivotal role in the gang’s drug distribution, extortion, and violent activity,” according to the prosecution’ sentencing memorandum. Prosecutors described Gutierrez as the lead defendant in the case.
In addition the RICO and conspiracy charges, Cofer also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of possession of a firearm in the furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, Mrozek said.
Cofer admitted to managing and supervising the gang’s extortion and drug trafficking, including directing the use of violence on behalf of the gang, according to Mrozek. He admitted to authorizing the shooting of someone who had been involved in a dispute with a fellow gang member.
Rivera pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to violate the RICO Act and conspiracy distribute drugs.
Thirty-one of the 41 gang members names in the 2014 indictment have pleaded guilty in connection with the case, Mrozek said.
Gutierrez admitted to
Prosecutors claimed EMF was holding meeting and selling drugs from the Boys & Girls Club on Mountain View Road, which was closed a month after the indictment against the gang was unsealed.
In a related case, another EMF member, 30-year-old Christian “Bossy” Lafargo, was sentenced to 17-and-a-half years in federal prison in May after admitting to charges including conspiracy, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, committing violent crime in aid of racketeering and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
IRWINDALE >> An El Monte woman wanted for an alleged cigarette lighter attack on her ex-boyfriend last month led Irwindale police on a short pursuit before being taken into custody early Thursday, officials said.
Jessica Magaly Ruvalcaba, 20, was booked on suspicion of felony domestic violence, evading a police officer, drunken driving and driving on a suspended license, according to Irwindale police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The chase began about 9:40 a.m. when an Irwindale officer spotted a gray Ford Mustang speeding at Irwindale Avenue and First Street and tried to pull it over, Irwindale police Sgt. George Zendejas said.
“(Ruvalcaba) failed to yield and led officers on a pursuit that terminated approximately one mile later in the area of Cypress Street and Irwindale Avenue,” police said in a written statement. Ruvalcaba stopped her car and surrendered.
A woman riding as a passenger in the Mustang was questioned and released, police said.
While the chase was ongoing, the pursuing officer recognized the description of the Mustang from a previous call he had handled several weeks ago, Zendejas said.
Ruvalcaba had been sought since Sept. 9, when she burned her ex-boyfriend with a cigarette lighter during an argument that took place in the same car, also along Irwindale Avenue.
Ruvalcaba told her ex to get out of her car, Zendejas said. When he did not comply, she burned him in the upper body with a cigarette lighter.
The man was injured by declined to be taken to a hospital, the sergeant said. Ruvalcaba fled the scene before officers arrived.
According to county booking records, Ruvalcaba was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail at the Glendora Police Department’s jail pending her initial court appearance.
PHOTO Jessica Ruvalcaba, 20, of El Monte. (Courtesy, El Monte Police Department)
EL MONTE >> Police in El Monte plan to step enforcement of traffic violations related to pedestrian and bicyclist safety on Tuesday, officials said.
During the Bike & Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operation, officers will pay extra attention to violation that could contribute to collisions, injuries and deaths, whether on the part of motorists, bicyclists or pedestrians, El Monte police Sgt. Jimmie Pitts said in a written statement.
“Special attention will be directed toward drivers speeding, making illegal turns, failing to stop for signs and signals, failing to yield to pedestrians in cross walks or any other dangerous violation,” he said.
“Additionally, enforcement will be taken for observed violations when pedestrians cross the street illegally or fail to yield to drivers who have the right of way. Bike riders will be stopped and citations issued when they fail to follow the same traffic laws that apply to motorists.”
Funding for the operation is being provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
EL MONTE >> The El Monte police department launched its “Service Area Policing” program this week, dividing the city into four separate quadrants, in an effort to streamline communication between the city and the community and more efficiently address specific problems and issues within the city.
Under the Service Area Policing program, which began Wednesday, the city has been divided into four geographical area, with police services for each overseen by a dedicated service area lieutenant, El Monte Police Chief David Reynoso said.
“Service area policing is becoming the industry standard for many police departments in the region,” the chief said. “It’s another tool to help us communicate with the public, learn their concerns and provide the best service we can.”
The program does not replace the traditional 9-1-1 system for emergencies, but it designed to help residents and business people deal with “chronic” quality of life issues, ranging from graffiti and speeding vehicles to code violations and public health issues.
The program helps police make more efficient use of resources to place them where they be the most effective, police said in a written statement.
“The Service Area Commanders have all of the resources of the police department available to them to address the needs of the community. Streamlining and utilizing resources in such a manner is a way to bypass our limitations,” according to the statement.
Even if the issue is not a police matter, police can work with citizens to notify the proper agency about their concerns, Reynoso said.
“Any community concern is our concern,” he added. And serice area commanders will work closely with other local agencies, such as public works, parks and recreation and the city council.
“Each entity offers its own distinct perspective toward the accomplishment of a solution towards the betterment of our city,” the polcie statement said. “This cultural change must migrate to all areas of the city and become part of the cultural norm our residents and businesses expect to be successful.
Under the program, the city of more than 115,000 people is divided into four areas, with the 10 Freeway serving as the boundary between the north and south, and Peck Road serving as the boundary between east and west.
Service Area 1, the northwest quadrant, is headed by Lt. Richard Cassetta, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Service Area 2, consisting of the city’s northeast quadrant, is supervised by Lt. Ben Lowry, who can be reached at email@example.com. Service Area 3, made up of the city’s southwest quadrant, is headed by Lt. Ernie Cramer, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Service Area 4, at the southeast corner of the city, is supervised by Lt. Peter Rasic, who can be reached at email@example.com.
All of the Service Area commanders can be reached by telephone at 626-580-2109.
“The program is built around a partnership between police and the community, Reynoso said.
“The success of this program depends on our cooperation,” he said.
PHOTOS: [Left to right] El Monte police Service Area 1 Lt. Richard Cassetta; El Monte police Service Area 2 Lt. Ben Lowry; El Monte police Service Area 3 Lt. Ernie Cramer; El Monte police Service Area 4 Lt. Pete Rasic. (Courtesy)
BALDWIN PARK >> An El Monte man already condemned to spend life behind bars received a new sentence of 86 years to life in state prison on Tuesday for the fatal shooting of a rival gang member on Christmas Eve in 2010, prosecutors said.
Johnny Mata, 35, who has also been convicted of a second, non-fatal gang shooting in Baldwin Park in 2012, spent more than a year as a fugitive after he was accidentally released from jail in 2013 while awaiting trial, then recaptured in Mexico in Mexico.
A jury Convicted Johnny Mata, 35, guilty last month of two felony counts of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a felon in the fatal shooting of 31-year-old David Deanda Jr., Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said. Jurors also found true the special, sentence-enhancing allegation that the killing was gang-related.
Co-defendant Jesus Arroyo Lule, 35, pleaded “no contest” in 2014 to a felony count of voluntary manslaughter for Deanda’s slaying and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 17 in the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s Pomona Branch.
Lule drove Mata to rival gang territory in the 13200 block of Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park. Baldwin Park in the predawn hours of Dec. 24, district attorney’s officials said in a written statement.
“Once there, Mata exited the car and walked up to a house where David Deanda Jr., 31 was standing in the driveway,” according to the statement. “Mata then fatally shot Deanda in the torso before fleeing the scene, the prosecutor added.
Mata exited the car and walked up to Deanda Jr. who was standing in the driveway of a residence, Barkhurst said. Mata then fatally shot Deanda in the torso before fleeing the scene.
A third defendant, then-27-year-old Christina Montenegro, was initially charged in connection with the 2012 shooting, but the charges were ultimately dropped.
Deanda, who worked as a welder, was survived by his wife, a son, a daughter and a stepdaughter, according to family.
Prior to being arrested
In April 2012, Mata shot at the home of another rival gang member in Baldwin Park, and was found guilty of attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a felon in a 2015 trial. He was sentenced to life, plus 25 years, in state prison for those crimes. But the jury deadlocked on the murder charge stemming from Deanda’s fatal shooting, leading to a second trial.
Following his initial arrest in May of 2012 in connection with the Baldwin Park slaying, Mata spent more than a year on the lam after he as accidentally released due to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department clerical error.
He was re-captured in April of 2014 in Mexico and returned to the U.S. to face justice.
Following Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Mata is now serving a total sentence of life in prison, plus 111 years to life in prison.
PHOTO: Johnny Mata of El Monte, (Courtesy)
EL MONTE >> A motorcyclist killed in a freeway crash in El Monte on Friday afternoon has been identified as a 51-year-old West Covina man, officials said Saturday.
Albert Max Escobedo died in the 3:10 p.m. crash on the 10 Freeway, east of Peck Road, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Lt. David Smith said.
Escobedo was riding a 2005 Suzuki motorcycle in the westbound lanes of traffic just prior to the crash, according to Officer M. Vargas of the California Highway Patrol’s East Los Angeles area office.
“For reasons still under investigation, the rider lost control of his vehicle and collided into the concrete jersey wall,” Vargas said in a written statement. “The rider was ejected from the motorcycle.
Escobedo was thrown into eastbound traffic lanes, where he was struck by three vehicles, officials said.
Paramedics pronounced Escobedo dead at the scene.
None of the other drivers were hurt in the collision, Vargas said. The crash remained under investigation.
Any witnesses are encouraged to contact the CHP’s East Los Angeles area office at 323-980-4600.
EL MONTE >> A man died after being thrown from his motorcycle into opposing traffic lanes on the 10 Freeway in El Monte Friday afternoon, authorities said.
The crash was first reported about 3:15 p.m. on the westbound 10 Freeway near Santa Anita Avenue, Los Angeles County Fire Department officials said.
The motorcyclist was ejected from the motorcycle, ultimately ending up in the eastbound traffic lanes, officials said.
The collision involved as many as four vehicles, California Highway Patrol Officer Michelle Bond said. The motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene.
No further details regarding the circumstances of the fatal collision were immeidately available.
The CHP issued a Sig Alert for the FasTrak toll lanes in both directions of the 10 Freeway as officers investigated the crash.
ALHAMBRA >> An alleged drunken driver struck a woman and a 3-year-old girl with his car along Main Street in Alhambra, sending the girl to an intensive care unit, before fleeing the scene and crashing into another car late Friday, police said.
Abundio Flores-Ramon, 21, of El Monte was arrested on suspicion of felony DUI and felony hit-and-run following the collisions, which took place about 8:45 p.m., according to Alhambra police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
The woman and the young girl were crossing Main Street at 4th Street when Flores-Ramon struck them with his car and fled the scene, Cpl. Tim Diller said.
Flores-Ramon continued driving east, where he struck another car at Main Street and Garfield Avenue, the corporal said.
The suspect’s car came to a stop at Garfield Avenue, where Flores-Ramon was taken into custody.
A total of five people, including the suspect, were treated for injuries following the collisions, police said.
The little girl remained in an intensive care unit early Saturday morning, Diller said.
In a written statement, police described the 3-year-old girls condition Saturday afternoon as “serious but stable.”
The woman who was struck along with her had been released from the hospital.
The conditions of the other two people injured from the vehicle struck by the fleeing suspect were not clear.
Flores-Ramon was booked at the Alhambra Police Department’s jail after being treated for his injuries, records show.
He was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
PHOTOS of crash scene (above) and suspect Abundio Flores-Ramon (below) courtesy of the Alhambra Police Department.
EL MONTE >> An abandoned briefcase prompted authorities to briefly shut down the El Monte Station late Tuesday, but was ultimately found to contain nothing dangerous, officials said.
The unattended briefcase was reported about 11 p.m. between bus bays 2 and 3 at the station, 3501 Santa Anita Ave., Lt. Jess Carrasco of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Transit Services Bureau said.
Deputies shut down the station and had an explosive-sniffing dog examine the briefcase, the lieutenant said.
After the dog detected nothing suspicious, deputies opened the briefcase and found nothing out of the ordinary, he said. Deputies sounded the all-clear just before 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Bus service continued outside the station during the incident, with passengers boarding their buses just outside the station, Metro Los Angeles officials said via Twitter.
EL MONTE >> Police in El Monte are inviting the community to join them for snow cones at three different community meetings at local parks over the next month.
The “Snow Cone With a Cop” events are planned for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday at Zamora Park, 3820 Penn Mar Ave.; July 28th at Mountain View Park, 12127 Elliot Ave.; and Aug. 11 at Mariposa Park, 4140 Gibson Road, city officials said in a written statement.
“The El Monte Police Department invited residents to enjoy a free snow cone and ask questions, voice their concerns and get to know Police Chief David Reynoso and other police officers,” according to the statement.
The first 200 guests will be treated to snow cones.
Police also plan to take the opportunity to introduce residents to their local police officers, under the department’s new “Service Area Policing Model,” the statement said.
For more information, email Sgt. Alex Martinez at firstname.lastname@example.org.