Police release suspect sketch in Pasadena double-fatal shooting targeting previous victim’s vigil

PASADENA >> Police released a composite sketch of one of four men sought in connection with a January shooting that left two men dead and two other victims wounded during a vigil for a previous homicide victim in Pasadena.
Antoine Dewayne Sutphen Jr. and Ormani Dajan Duncan, both 24 and from Pasadena, died in the barrage of gunfire that erupted just before midnight on Jan. 6 at Fair Oaks Avenue and Claremont Street, according to Pasadena police and Los Angeles County coroner’s officials.
The victims had gathered for a vigil in memory of 25-year-old Brandon Douglas of Pasadena, who was gunned down on the same corner on Dec. 22.
The shooting involved four attackers, according to Pasadena police Lt. Jesse Carrillo. Investigators received conflicting reports of whether the men fired from inside a passing vehicle or exited their car before opening fire.
Police released descriptions of the suspect earlier this week in hopes of generating tips from the public, the lieutenant said. The plan worked.
“Since our most recent request for assistance, witnesses have come forward and provided further information, resulting in a composite sketch of one suspect,” Carrillo said.
Witnesses have described the killers as four black men. One was 20 to 25 years old, of dark complexion, 6 feet to 6 feet 2 inches tall, between 210 and 220 pounds, police said.
The other three suspects were all described as 25 to 30 years old. One was 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall and 240 to 250 pounds and of dark complexion. The third was 5 feet 9 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighing 210 to 220 pounds and of medium complexion. The final suspect was 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet 1 inch tall, 180 to 190 pounds and of light complexion.
No description of the attackers’ car was available.
Investigators hoped more witnesses are yet to come forward with vital information that may help them solve the double-slaying, Carrillo said.
In addition to the two Pasadena man who lost their lives in the Jan. 6 shooting, a 24-year-old woman was critically injured and a 25-year-old man suffered non-life-threatening wounds.
The bloodshed continued the following afternoon, when another shooting erupted at the same street corner, police said. A 25-year-old man was shot in the thigh.
Investigators have said it appears the shooting, as well as others in the region since, are the result of an escalating rivalry between gangs in the Pasadena, Monrovia, Duarte and Pomona areas.
Anyone with information can reach Pasadena police homicide detectives at 626-744-4511. The department can be reached 24 hours a day at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

SKETCH courtesy of the Pasadena Police Department/Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. PHOTO: Outside Kings Villages in Pasadena a candle is lit on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017 by friends of Ormoni Duncan who was fatally shot along with Antoine Sutphen, Jr., in a shooting that also left two other victims wounded on Friday night. The victims were headed to a vigil for Brandon Douglas who was killed on Dec. 22, 2016. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

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Altadena man recaptured after mistaken jail release sentenced for 2011 Pasadena murder

PASADENA >> A man who fatally shot another man in Pasadena in 2011, and then was mistakenly released from jail while awaiting trial before being recaptured in Nevada, received a sentence of more than seven decades in prison this week, officials said.
Steven Lawrence Wright, 38, began serving his 75-year-to-life state prison term Monday following his sentencing in the Burbank Branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Ricardo Santiago.
A jury convicted him in November of murder for the Jan 19, 2011, fatal shooting of Donnell Taylor of Pasadena in the 1700 block of Summit Avenue. He was also convicted of attempted murder in December of 2015 for another attack that took place on March 15, 2011, according to court records.
Co-defendant Vernon Fisher, 44, of Altadena, pleaded “no contest” in November to a manslaughter charge for Taylor’s slaying, court records show. He was subsequently sentenced to 82 years to life in state prison.
Police alleged both Wright and Fisher were members of the Altadena Blocc Crips, though Taylor was not believed to be a gang member.
Officials at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not return requests for information on the case.
As Wright was awaiting trial for Taylor’s murder when he was mistakenly set free on Jan. 30, 2016, due to a paperwork error, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s and court officials.
After refusing to cooperate as a witness in another trial, a judge held Wright in contempt and sent him to jail for five days.
But paperwork submitted by the court indicated Wright was to be released outright once he’d served his time for contempt of court, sheriff’s Commander Keith Swensson said at the time. Sheriff’s officials failed to catch the error and released Wright from custody, despite the pending murder case.
He remained a fugitive for nine days until he was found and recaptured at a motel in Boulder City, Nevada, on Feb. 8, 2016.
Wright’s case was unusual, but not entirely unique.
Another killer was also mistakenly released from Men’s Central Jail in Los Angeles, administered by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department just over three years earlier.
Johnny Mata of El Monte was awaiting trial for the murder for the Christmas Eve 2010 fatal shooting of David Anthony Deanda, 34, of Baldwin Park, on Christmas Eve, 2010, as well as a second nonfatal shooting in Baldwin Park 2012, when he was mistakenly released from custody.
Mata was recaptured a little over a year later in Mexico. He has since been sentenced to life, plus 111 years, in state prison.

PHOTO: Steven L. Wright (Courtesy)

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Gang member charged in slaying of Whittier police officer, cousin

WHITTIER >> Prosecutors filed capital murder and other charges Wednesday against a gang member and probationer accused of killing one Whittier police officer and wounding another last month after gunning down his cousin in East Los Angeles, authorities said.
Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles faces two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of carjacking and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with the shootings, which took place on the morning of Feb. 20 in East Los Angeles and in Whittier, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Greg Risling.
Mejia could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder of Whittier police Officer Keith Boyer, the murder of his cousin, Roy Torres, the wounding of Whittier officer Patrick Hazell, as well as the carjacking of his cousin and the alleged weapons violation, officials said.
“A decision on whether to seek capital punishment will me made at a later date,” Risling said in a written statement.
Mejia, who was shot and wounded himself by police before being apprehended, was scheduled to appear for an arraignment hearing Thursday in the Bellflower branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court, Risling said. But it was unclear if his medical condition would force the hearing to be postponed.
Mejia has remained hospitalized in a jail ward since the shooting, records show. He was immediately sentenced to a 10-day “flash incarceration” for violating the terms of his probation under the terms of AB 109 pending the filing of charges in connection with the deadly shootings. The 10-day, automatic sentence is set to expire Thursday.
Mejia first shot and killed Torres inside the converted garage he was using as a bedroom at his home in East Los Angeles, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. Mejia then stole his slain cousin’s car and made his way to Whittier.
A little under three hours later, Mejia was involved in a minor traffic collision with two other motorists at Colima Road and Mar Vista Street, investigators said.
“Police responded to the crash and when they ordered Mejia to get out of his car the defendant is accused of pulling out a semi-automatic handgun and firing at two officers,” Risling said. Boyer was killed and Hazell was also wounded. Hazell has since been released from the hospital and is continuing his recovery at home.
Mejia has prior felony convictions for robbery in 2010 and auto theft in 2014, Risling said.
Since being released from custody for the auto theft conviction in April of 2016, Mejia was arrested five times for probation violations, records show. Each time, he received a 9- or 10-day “flash incarceration” before being turned loose again.
The case has prompted outrage from law enforcement and questions from politicians and community members over recent efforts to empty California’s overpopulated prisons, such as AB 109, also knows as the Public Safety Realignment of 2011, and Proposition 47 of 2014, which reduced some felony crimes to misdemeanors.
Memorial services for Boyer are scheduled Thursday evening and Friday morning.
Boyer, who was 53, was a a 27-year veteran of the Whittier Police Department. He is the first Whittier officer killed in the line of duty since 1979.
A public viewing will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Whittier Area Community Church, 8100 Colima Road in Whittier.
The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at Calvary Chapel Downey, 12808 Woodruff Ave. in Downey, followed immediately by a procession and graveside ceremony as Rose Hills Memorial Park, 3888 Workman Mill Road in Whittier.

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Suspect in deadly Whittier police shootout still in ICU, surviving officer released from hospital

Members of the community place flowers in memory of slain Whittier Police officer Keith Boyer at the Whittier Police Department’s Police Officer Memorial in Whittier, Calif. on Tuesday February 21, 2017. (Photo by Keith Durflinger/Whittier Daily News/SCNG)

WHITTIER >> The gang member accused of killing a Whittier police officer and another man on Monday, as well as wounding another police officer, remained hospitalized in a intensive care unit Wednesday as detectives continued gathering evidence and the community continued mourning and seeking answers.
Investigators were yet to interview Michael Christopher Mejia, 26, of Los Angeles, as he continued receiving treatment for a gunshot wound to the back sustained in Monday morning’s gunfight with the Whittier, Lt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau said. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.
The tight-knit Whittier community has rallied around the family of Officer Keith Boyer, a 53-year-old Whittier resident, 28-year lawman, father, grandfather and classic rock drummer.
Officer Patrick Hazell, who was wounded in the abdomen in the shootout, was released from the hospital and continuing his recovery at home, Corina said. His father said the wounded officer did not wish to comment at this time.
Mejia, a documented gang member who was on felony probation, or “Post-Release Community Supervision,” under the terms of AB 109, is also accused of gunning down his cousin about 5:30 a.m. in the 1400 block of Volney Drive in East Los Angeles, less than three hours before the violent encounter with police in Whittier.
Family members said Mejia showed up the Torres home and confronted Torres inside the converted garage the victim used as his bedroom.
The men possibly became involved in an argument prior to the shooting, relatives said. Following the shooting, Mejia allegedly fled in Torres car, which he soon crashed in Whittier.
An autopsy determined Torres died from a single gunshot wound to the head, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Assistant Chief of Operations Ed Winter said. The death was ruled a homicide.
No further details of the East Los Angeles slaying, including a motive, have not been released.Mejia was driving a stolen car when became involved in a minor crash with two other vehicles at Colima Road and Mar Vista Avenue about 8 a.m., Corina said.
Police arrive at the scene after the other drivers had helped Mejia push the car he was driving to the side of the road.
“They asked him to get out of the car. That’s when the shooting occurred,” Corina said.
Mejia suddenly drew a semi-automatic handgun and opened fire, striking both officers.
One of the officer managed to return fire and wound Mejia, who was taken into custody at the scene by fellow officers, officials said.
It was unclear which of the officers wounded the suspect. Corina declined to discuss whether one, or both, of the officers fired their weapons.
Mejia’s gun was recovered at the scene, Corina said.
The involved officers were not wearing body camera, and Corina said he was not aware of any video recordings of the deadly encounter between Mejia and Whittier police.
Mejia was expected to be charged in connection with the case once he’s out of the hospital, the lieutenant said.
Mejia had prior convictions for robbery, and most recently, auto theft, officials said.
He as been re-arrested for probation violations five times since being released from prison for the auto theft conviction, each time resulting in 9- or 10-day “flash incarcerations,” under the terms of AB 109, also known as the “California Public Safety Realignment” of 2011, records show.
Details regarding the circumstances of each arrest were not available, however none resulted in the filing of a new criminal case.
At least one of the arrests was for possession of methamphetamine, Corina said.
Possession of methamphetamine had traditionally been a felony in California, punishable by a year or more in prison, but was reduced to a misdemeanor by Proposition 47, passed by California voters in 2014.
Mejia’s criminal record has raised concerns of law enforcement officers, politicians and others, who are questioning whether Mejia should have been behind bars, rather than out on the street, on Monday.
A documented gang member, and an apparently proud one, Mejia bears the letters “W” and “G” tattooed prominently across his face in capital letters. The same abbreviation, which stands for an East Los Angeles street gang, is also tattooed on Mejia’s neck in lower-case letters.
Services for Boyer have not been announced.
The Whittier Police Department is accepting donations to benefit Boyer’s family. He’s survived by a fiancee, four children and two grandchildren.
Checks can be made out to “WPOA Benevolent Fund,” and reference account No. 488879. Contributions can be dropped off in person at the Whittier Police Department, 13200 Penn Street, in person at the Credit Union of Southern California at 8028 Greenleaf Ave. or mailed to the Credit Union of Southern California, WPOA Benevolent Fund, attention David Valencia, PO Box 200, Whittier, CA 90608.
Any witnesses, or anyone with information, regarding Monday’s incident is encouraged to contact the sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.

PHOTO of Michael C. Mejia courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Departement

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Man wounded in Pico Rivera drive-by shooting


PICO RIVERA >> A man showed up at a hospital with gunshot wounds after a drive-by shooting outside a Pico Rivera liquor store on Sunday afternoon, officials said.
The shooting took place about 4:45 p.m. at Whittier Boulevard and Orange Street, in front of the Pico Market, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Noe Garcia said.
“The suspects pulled up in the intersection and shot north into the liquor store parking lot,” he said.
Deputies did not immediately find any victims at the scene, and potential witnesses appeared uncooperative.
As the investigation continued, a known gang member in his 40s arrived at a Montebello emergency room with a gunshot wound to his leg, the lieutenant said. The injury was not considered life-threatening.
The attackers were described only as two Latino men in a blue Volkswagen, which was last seen heading west on Whittier Boulevard.
Anyone with information can reach the sheriff’s Pico Rivera Station at 562-949-2421. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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Azusa gang member, woman arrested in Covina with stockpile of drugs

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COVINA >> Police jailed an Azusa gang member late Friday after he ran from a traffic stop with large amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine and concentrated cannabis, as well as other people identifying documents, officials said.
Steven Anthony Quintana, 42, of Azusa, who was already on felony probation for previous robbery conviction under the terms of AB 109, was ultimately booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sales, possession of identity theft-related materials and resisting arrest, according to Covina police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Quintana’s passenger, 37-year-old Darlene Denise Martinez, whose hometown was unclear, was booked on suspicion of possession of drugs for sales and possession of identity-theft related materials.
An officer first tried to pull Quintana over for a traffic violation about 6:30 p.m., Covina police Sgt. Antonio Zavala said.
After a delay, Quintana pulled over in the 5300 block of Cedarglen Drive, where he ran from the car, the sergeant said.
A police helicopter which was already overhead directed officers on the ground to Quintana, who was found in the area and arrested without a struggle, Zavala said.
Quintana ditched his jacket while running from police, he said. Inside the jacket, police found 46 grams of methamphetamine, seven grams of cocaine and 32 grams of concentrated cannabis. Inside the car, police also found identifying documents in the names of other people.
Quintana and Martinez were being held in lieu of $50,000 bail each pending their initial court appearances, records show.

BOOKING PHOTOS of Steven Quintana and Darlene Martinez courtesy of the Covina Police Department.

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Two men fatally shot at Pasadena vigil identified

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PASADENA >> Authorities have identified two Pasadena men who were shot to death while gathered at a vigil for another recent homicide victim in a suspected gang-related attack that also left two other people wounded late Friday.
Antoine Dewayne Sutphen Jr. and Ormani Dajan Duncan, both 24 and from Pasadena, died following the late-night shooting near Fair Oaks Avenue and Claremont Street, Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner Investigator Rudy Molano said.
They were gathered at a vigil for another Pasadena man gunned down on the same spot on Dec. 22 when gunfire erupted from a passing car, Pasadena police Lt. Mark Goodman said.
A woman was also critically wounded in the shooting, and a man suffered a non-life-threatening injuries.
Hours later, gunfire again rang out on near the same corner about 5 p.m. Saturday, where a 25-year-old Pasadena man suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh, Goodman said.
A lack of cooperative witnesses in all of the shootings left investigators with no solid suspect description, police said.
The spate of violence was believed to be gang-related, Lt. Vasken Gourdikian said.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Pasadena police at 626-744-4241. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

PHOTO by James Carbone

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Man sentenced for 2006 La Puente ‘execution’ of Valinda man who failed to pay ‘taxes’ to Mexican Mafia


LOS ANGELES >> A former gang member from Baldwin Park received a 24-year prison sentence this week for his role in a federal drug trafficking conspiracy in which he admitted personally executing another gang member from Valinda who failed to pay “taxes,” or extortion payments, to the Mexican Mafia, authorities announced Thursday.
Eddie “Criminal” Garcia, a former 18th Street gang member with ties to Baldwin Park and El Sereno, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Los Angeles to a charge of participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine as part of a federal case targeting the Mexican Mafia-controlled Puente 13 street gang.
As part of his plea agreement, Garcia admitted to luring and fatally shooting David Dragna, 44, of Valinda at an apartment complex in the 14700 block of Prichard Street in La Puente on July 3, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
“Garcia admitted that in 2006 he and two members of Puente 13 lured another gang member to an apartment complex, where Garcia executed the victim with a bullet to the head,” Mrozek said.
Garcia carried out the killing on the orders of leaders of Puente 13, who accused Dragna of keeping extortion payments on drug proceeds, or “taxes,” intended for the Mexican Mafia, officials said. Dragna was a member of the Townsmen gang, which also operates in the Valinda Corridor in the central Can Gabriel Valley.
“This defendant killed another human being in cold blood to further his own criminal credentials and to further his drug trafficking career,” U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Eileen M. Decker said. “While he may have believed he could get away with murder, the hard work and dedication of law enforcement and prosecutors in my office ensured that he was held accountable. This case is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of gang violence on our community and the severe consequences that will result from participating in those criminal enterprises.”
At the time of Garcia’s plea deal, the prosecution and defense in the case agreed to recommend Garcia be sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald opted for the high end of the range, sentencing Garcia on Monday to 24 years behind bars, as well as eight years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison term.
The two Puente 13 gang members who joined Garcia in the killing have since pleaded guilty to the slaying, Mrozek said. Angel “Smiley” Torres is serving a 15-and-a-half-year prison term, and Steven “Flaco” Nunez is serving a 10-year sentence.
As part of the same investigation into Puente 13, which began in 2008, longtime gang leader Rafael “Cisco” Munoz-Gonzalez, 42, of La Puente and his brother, Cesar “Blanco” Munoz-Gonazalez of Rowland Heights, received life sentenced in federal prison in 2013 after being convicted at trial of violating the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organizations Act, as well as committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering, engaging in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, weapons charges and other offenses.
The investigation into Puente 13 has resulted in four indictments and the convictions of about five-dozen gang members and associates, officials said.

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Stabbing, shooting in San Gabriel blamed on gang rivalry

SAN GABRIEL >> A man was stabbed, another was beaten and a car was struck by gunfire in a sudden spate of violence blamed on a gang rivalry late Wednesday, officials said.
Police first received reports of a fight involving rival gang members about 1:30 p.m. in the area of Del Mar and Clary avenues, San Gabriel police Lt. Fabian Valdez said.
The combatants had fled by the time officers arrived, the lieutenant said. But officials at nearby San Gabriel Valley Medical Center notified police about an hour-and-a-half later that a man in his 40s had arrived at the emergency room suffering from multiple stab wounds.
Though conscious, the stabbing victim would not cooperate with investigators, Valdez said.
Police were summoned to the same area about 8:20 p.m. after witnesses reported hearing gunshots at San Marino Avenue and Broadway, just around the corner from the scene of the earlier suspected gang fight, according to Valdez.
Again, officers found no suspects or victims at the scene.
A woman reported to police on Thursday morning that her husband had been beaten up by several other men, and her car had been struck by gunfire in incident at San Marino Avenue and Broadway, he said. The woman’s husband suffered cuts and bruises but no serious injuries.
All three victims were in their 40s, officials said.
Investigators believed the violence stemmed from a dispute between two groups of rival gang members.
The stabbing victim is suspected to be affiliated with a local street gang, Valdez said. The victims of the beating and shooting were believed to have ties to a South Los Angeles gang, and the second incident appeared to have been carried out in retaliation for the stabbing hours earlier.
Police are working to assess the situation and determine what resources and tactics may be helpful in preventing further gang violence, Valdez said. “
“The San Gabriel Police Department is currently developing a plan to address this matter,” he said.
Police asked the public to come forward with any relevant information.
Any with information can reach San Gabriel police at 626-308-3838. Tips may also be submitted anonymously to L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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El Monte gang members, including Mexican Mafia ‘shot caller,’ sentenced to prison in RICO case

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.

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