LOS ANGELES >> A Walnut man and “shotcaller” of a South Los Angeles street gang faces 27 years in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to federal racketeering and dug trafficking charges for helping the gang’s incarcerated leader continue managing the gang from behind bars, authorities said.
Manuel Valencia, 38, pleaded guilty to violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and “engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise connected to drug trafficking,” U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
Valencia, who could have faced life in prison if convicted at trial, is expected to receive 27 years in prison when he returns to federal court in Los Angeles for sentencing Sept. 8, officials said. He admitted to being a shotcaller for the Harpys street gang, one of more than a dozen Latino gangs in the South Los Angeles Area controlled by imprisoned Mexican Mafia member Danny Roman.
Acting on the orders of Roman, who is serving a life sentence at Pelican State Prison, Valencia, “admitted that he oversaw and participated in gang activities, which included collecting ‘taxes’ from drug dealers who were allowed to operate in gang territory, retaliating against people who ran afoul of the gang and engaging in drug trafficking,” Mrozek said.
Valencia’s plea comes a week after Roman’s daughter, 37-year-old Vianna Roman of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to racketeering, drug and weapons offenses for “acting as a conduit for her father’s orders as he exercised control of the Harpys gang,” Mrozek added.
Vianna Roman is expected to receive 20 years in prison when she returns to court for sentencing July 28, Mrozek said, though additional prison time is possible if deemed appropriate by U.S. District Judge R. Hary Klausner.
The guilty pleas come as a result of a 2-year-old indictment against 29 defendants, officials said. Of those originally charged in the indictment, 24 have pleaded guilty, one is awaiting trial, three are fugitives and one had charges dismissed after being convicted of murder in an unrelated case.
COMPTON >> Authorities offered a $20,000 reward Wednesday in connection with the fatal January shooting of a Pasadena city employee and aspiring firefighter believed to have been gunned down by gang members in a case of mistaken identity.
Tauruson McMillian, 34, of Cerritos died in a car-to-car shooting about 6:40 p.m. Jan. 4 at Wilmington and Rosecrans avenues, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said. Homicide detectives believe he may have been shot by gang members simply because of the color of his car. His car was red.
McMillian had just left a friend’s house in Compton as he was speaking with his girlfriend on the phone while en route to her home when he was shot, Sgt. John O’Brien of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. There were no signs of a confrontation before the gunfire.
“He was talking to her about what they were going to have for dinner when the phone went dead,” O’Brien said.
McMillian had no children of his own, but had helped raise his girlfriend Pamela Adel’s twin 10-year-old sons and 16-year-old daughter for the past nine years, Adel said.
He had worked as a sanitation engineer for the Pasadena Department of Public Works for a year and a half, and was also studying fire science at Santa Ana College with a goal of one day becoming a firefighter, she said.
“We remember him for the good-hearted individual he was. His smile, his good-hearted presence,” Adel said. “Let’s keep his memory alive.”
While other theories have not been ruled out, McMillian may have been targeted because he was driving a red Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS on Wilmington Avenue, just north of Rosecrans Avenue, when a car pulled up along the passenger side of his Monte Carlo and someone inside opened fire, O’Brien said.
McMillian was wounded several times in the upper torso, O’Brien said. His car crashed into a tree, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Investigators suspect the red color of the car may have been mistaken for a sign of gang affiliation by his killer or killers.
“We believe it was gang members who fired on him,” Lt. John Corina said. The area where the shooting occurred is known to be inhabited by several street gangs.
But the attacker or attackers were mistaken, Corina said. “He’s not involved in gangs.”
The car from which the shots were fired has been described only as a light-colored sedan, Corina said. No description of the killer or killers was available.
Investigators have talked with some witnesses, but believe there are many others yet to come forward, O’Brien said. Other drivers in traffic were believed to have witnessed the shooting, and the street was busy with people at the time of the shooting, as a nearby church was about to hold a 7 p.m. service.
In hopes of generating new leads in the slaying, officials said, the County of Los Angeles and the city of Compton each put up $10,000 for a total reward amount of $20,000 for information leading to the conviction of his killer or killers.
McMillian’s colleagues in Pasadena remain saddened by his slaying, Pasadena spokesman William Boyer said.
“There were, and there continue to be, condolences expressed on his untimely death,” Boyer said. “We do hope that the reward will perhaps motivate someone to come forward and help solve the case.”
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500.
PHOTOS: Homicide victim Taurus McMillian, 34, of Cerritos (courtesy)
PASADENA — Pasadena police gang detectives arrested man and seized a handgun, more than three ounces of methamphetamine and more than 10 ounces of hash while serving a search warrant at a Pasadena apartment Thursday afternoon, officials said.
Eddie Vasquez, 33, of Pasadena was booked on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine for sale, possession of concentrated cannabis for sale and being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun following the 2:30 p.m. search in the 500 block of North Marengo Avenue, Pasadena police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian said.
Officers assigned to the Pasadena Police Departments Special Enforcement Section were continuing an ongoing investigation when they showed up at Vasquez’s home, he said. Vasquez was suspected to have gang ties.
According to county booking records, Vasquez was being held in lieu of $35,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.
MONROVIA — Two apparent gang members stabbed and wounded a young man after he exited a bus Thursday afternoon, police said.
The victim, a 19-year-old black man, got off a bus at Foothill Boulevard and Magnolia Street about 6:25 p.m., Monrovia police Sgt. Glen Coleman said.
He was approached my two men who seemingly mistook the victim for a gang member, the sergeant said.
One of the assailants shouted “(expletive) Duroc” as he stabbed the victim in the chest, Coleman said. The stab wound was not considered to be life-threatening.
“Duroc” refers to the Duroc Crips street gang, which populates the Duarte and Monrovia area.
But the wounded man did not appear to be associated with the gang, Coleman said.
The attackers were described only as Latino men of about the same age as the victim. They were last seen running from the scene of the stabbing.
ALTADENA — Local and federal officials arrested two Pasadena gang members early Friday in connection with the beating and kidnapping of another man earlier in the week, authorities said.
James Patton, 27, and Jeffrey Butler, 20, were arrested by a task force comprised of Altadena sheriff’s deputies, Pasadena police officers and FBI agents during the service of two search warrants in the early-morning hours, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a written statement. They were booked on suspicion of assault, kidnapping and weapons charges.
The alleged kidnapping took place early Wednesday.
“An Altadena resident was assaulted, kidnapped and then held hostage inside a house on the 500 block of Stonehurst Drive,” according to the sheriff’s department statement.
“Allegedly, the two suspects left him in the house to be watched by another younger male so they could steal his car,” the statement said. “The victim was able to escape through the back door and jumped over the rear fence. A short time later, the victim contacted several patrol Deputies on the 500 block of Figueroa Drive, Altadena and explained how he was beaten and threatened by two suspects with two different handguns.”
Butler was taken into custody about 6 a.m. Friday as officials searched a home in the 400 block of Athens Street in Altadena, according to sheriff’s officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
“Detectives are still looking for a chrome handgun that was allegedly used by Mr. Butler,” according to the statement.
Patton was arrested about 6:30 p.m. during a search at a second, undisclosed location, officials said. Also recovered during the search was a revolver believed to have been used in the crime.
Another alleged gang member was arrested along with Patton due to an outstanding $15,000 misdemeanor warrant, according to investigators and booking records.
Patton and Butler were being held in lieu of $1 million bail each pending their initial court appearances.
PASADENA — Police arrested a Pasadena man on suspicion of being an gang member in possession of a loaded handgun following a short foot chase late Friday, officials said.
Officers responded to a report of a fight about 8:30 p.m. in the 100 block of Painter Street, Pasadena police Lt. Vasken Gourdikian said. The caller described one man who had been armed with a gun.
There was no fight ongoing when police arrived, but a man matching the description of the armed man described by the caller ran from officers, Gourdikian said.
Officers chase the man about half a block before catching him and taking him into custody without further incident, the lieutenant said.
“Upon retracing the steps of the foot pursuit, a loaded firearm was recovered,” he said.
Carl Anthony Lloyd, 19, of Pasadena, was arrested on suspicion of felony gun possession, according to police and Los Angeles County booking records. The investigation was ongoing.
He was being held in lieu of $35,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.
An alleged gang member wounded in a deputy-involved shooting near Duarte is out of the hospital and awaiting trial on charges of attacking deputies with an automatic assault pistol, authorities said Friday.
Andre Masayuki Goto, 34, is scheduled to appear Jan. 16 in Alhambra Superior Court for a preliminary hearing setting in connection with the Dec. 29 early-morning incident, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.
He pleaded not guilty Dec. 31 to four counts of assault on a peace officer with an assault weapon, and two counts of assault on a peace officer, she said.
According to court documents, Goto is also accused of the special allegation that the crimes were gang-related, and that he has a previous conviction for assault with a firearm.
“His maximum (sentence), should he be convicted as charged, is 107 years in state prison,” Davila-Morales said. “Bail was set at $890,000.”
The encounter began just before 1:20 a.m as a short car chase of a man spotted with a gun and came to a violent conclusion in the 2400 block of El Toro Road in an unincorporated county area near Duarte, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said.
At the end of the brief chase, Goto is accused of ramming a sheriff’s patrol car, then pointing a loaded, automatic machine pistol resembling a MAC-10 at deputies, said Lt. Dave Dolson of the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said, which routinely investigated deputy-involved shootings. The suspect fired no shots.
The weapon was recovered at the scene, according to officials and witnesses.
Deputies fired on the Nissan Altima Goto and a passenger were in, striking both men, officials said. It was not clear Friday how many deputies fired their weapons during the incident, however a total of four deputies were listed as victims of Goto’s alleged assaults in court documents.
Goto and the wounded passenger, a 36-year-old man who was ultimately released without charges “pending further investigation,” were both hospitalized following the shooting, Dolson said.
Goto has a listed address in Covina, but is believed to belong to a Duarte-area street gang, Dolson said. He declined to specify which gang.
Gang investigators were conducting extra patrols in the area in response to recent shootings, including two homicides, in the week leading up to the deputy-involved shooting.
COMPTON — A 14-year-old girl died late Saturday after she was shot while riding her bicycle in what investigators are calling a gang-related attack.
The name of the girl was not released Sunday pending positive identification and notification of family members, Los Angeles County Department of Coroner Capt. John Kades said.
Deputies encountered the fatally wounded teen after responding to a report of a shooting about 10:10 p.m. at Alameda Boulevard and Elm Street, Sgt. Harry Drucker of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Headquarters Bureau said in a written statement. She was taken to an area hospital where she succumbed to her wounds.
“According to witnesses, the victim was riding a bicycle when she was shot,” Drucker said.
No suspects were in custody Sunday, and no description of the attacker or attackers was available.
“The victim is a member of a local street gang and the shooting is believed to be gang-related,” he said.
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Tips may also be submitted anonymously through L.A. Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
AZUSA — A report of a man with a gun inside of a clothing store late Saturday resulted in three arrests, as well as the recovery of two guns, a stolen car and methamphetamine, police said.
Gabriel Triviso, 34, Dennis Ayon, 33, and Valerie Garcia, 33, were arrested shortly after 9:45 p.m. outside the Ross store at 820 E. Alosta Avenue, Azusa police Cpl. Robert Landeros said in a written statement. Triviso and Ayon were both described by police as documented gang members.
The incident began when police responded to a report that a man inside the store was armed with a handgun, police said.
Police surrounded the store and attempted to detain the group of three suspects as they exited the store, but Triviso allegedly ran, pulling a loaded semi-automatic handgun from his waistband and throwing it on the floor.
Officers recovered the gun and soon captured Triviso at a nearby parking garage, Landeros said.
As he and the other two suspects were being detained by police, officers discovered methamphetamine and a second loaded handgun inside the vehicle they had been driving, which had been reported stolen, Sgt. Randy Schmidt said. The sergeant declined to say exactly how much of the drug was recovered, but described it as consistent with “street sales.”
Triviso, Ayon and Garcia were each booked on suspicion of auto theft, possession of a controlled substance for sales and possession of a controlled substance with a firearm.
Triviso was additionally accused of illegal possession of a concealed firearm, while Ayon and Garcia were additionally booked on suspicion of possession of fake identification.
Azusa police were assisted in the arrests by a multi-agency anti-gang task force that was coincidentally performing gang suppression operations in Azusa at the time, Landeros said.
All three suspects were being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending their initial court appearances, officials said.
Trial was underway Thursday for a Whittier man and a West Covina man accused of the gang-related slaying of one man and the attempted murder of another along a set of railroad tracks in Santa Fe Springs in late 2009, officials said.
Erick Rodriguez, now-22, of Whittier and Jose Zapata, now-21, of Whittier are accused of the Dec. 8, 2009 killing of 18-year-old Jonathan Gonzalez of Corning, along with the non-fatal shooting of then-19-year-old Julio Serrano of Whittier, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Officials and court documents. Rodriguez, who was 17 at the time of the crime, is being tried as an adult.
Jury trial for the men began Wednesday in Norwalk Superior Court with jury selection, which continued Thursday, court officials said.
In addition to the charges, the two defendants are accused of the special allegations that both men personally fired handguns in the crime, and that the shooting was gang-related.
The shooting took place about 12:20 a.m. along a secluded section of railroad tracks just west of the 8900 block of Dice road in Santa Fe Springs, Whittier police Officer Mike Dekowski said at the time.
Gonzalez died at the scene of the shooting, officials said. Serrano was found wounded nearby.
The following afternoon, investigators identified Rodriguez and Zapata as suspects in the shooting and arrested them in the 8600 block of Alburtis Avenue in an unincorporated county area just west of Whittier, police said.
According to county booking records, Rodriguez was being held without bail, while Zapata was being held in lieu of $2 million bail.