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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El Monte Flores gang members indicted on conspiracy, drug trafficking, other charges

LOS ANGELES — Federal authorities Wednesday arrested 18 El Monte Flores gang members and associates who used the former offices of the Boys & Girls Club as their hangout.
The 18 were among 41 people indicted by a federal grand jury last week on charges that include conspiracy, murder, drug trafficking, money laundering, and weapons violations.
Federal officials said the gang conducted illegal activities out of the Boys & Girls Club of America/San Gabriel Valley Club facilities on Mountain View Road.
“They used the club as a place where they would openly sell drugs and collect taxes,” said Vijay Rathi, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The gang also used the club, which recently held community meetings and hosted a car wash fundraiser for a Flores member who was murdered.
“It is very disturbing that a facility that is supposed to give boys and girls protection and a safe place could be used for that,” Mayor Andrew Quintero said.


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A look inside the Numero Uno case

Jeffery Anderson has a piece out today on Ticklethewire, which goes into some detail about how the government essentially blew its case against George Torres, the inner city grocery store kingpin who was accused in a racketeering case. 

Thomas Himes tackled the same material in Sunday’s newspaper. Here’s a snippet of Tom’s story in case you missed it:

LOS ANGELES — In the eyes of a federal court judge, an Arcadia man who was convicted of soliciting murder and racketeering was the victim of a rogue LAPD cop who bribed and threatened key witnesses in the case.

As a result, George Torres, 52, the one-time owner of the Los Angeles-based Numero Uno supermarket chain, which had a store in South El Monte, is free again after serving nearly two years time in federal custody.

“Now he (Torres) stands convicted of nothing,” Torres’ attorney, Steve Madison said.

Torres still faces charges of harboring illegal aliens, bribing a planning commissioner and tax evasion and will return to court on Nov. 30

In a 147-page ruling U.S. District Court Judge Stephen V. Wilson cited police and government misconduct as reasons to overturn Torres’ convictions.

Wilson singled out LAPD Sgt. Greg Kading, ruling that Kading bribed and threatened key witnesses to obtain testimony against Torres.

The LAPD veteran made “promises of immunity, money, and benefits while in prison, to drug dealers who faced decades of prison time,” Madison said.

Kading did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story. Although LAPD had no official comment, a source close to the investigation said the department’s Internal Affairs Group is investigating Kading.

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Numero Uno store owner Torres conviction overturned

I should have had this earlier in the day, but got busy.
George Torres, an Arcadia resident had his racketeering conviction overturned in federal court Wednesday after a judge ruled that prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence. Torres was represented by Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison at trial.

LOS ANGELES – A federal judge has dismissed two of the most serious convictions in a racketeering case against the founder of a Southern California grocery chain.

U.S. attorney’s spokesman Thom Mrozek says the judge on Tuesday tossed out racketeering and conspiracy convictions against George Torres, of Arcadia, founder of the Numero Uno stores. Torres was ordered released on $1 million bond.

The judge’s order came after federal prosecutors discovered jailhouse recordings containing potentially exculpatory statements made by a witness in the case.
Torres was convicted of 55 felony counts in April and had faced a potential life sentence. He now faces a shorter sentence.

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