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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Trial for grocery store magnate underway in federal court

From the Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES–A grocery store magnate ordered the killing of rivals, bribed public officials and hired illegal immigrants to bolster and protect his business, a prosecutor in a racketeering trial said Wednesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Searight told jurors during his opening statement that George Torres ran his Numero Uno supermarkets like a criminal enterprise, skimming from store profits and taking revenge on those who crossed him.

Torres and his brother Manuel Torres were part of a group “that used violence, including murder, force, bribery and alien harboring to protect and further their business,” Searight said.

The evidence against the brothers includes wiretapped conversations and testimony from former employees and gang members, the prosecutor said.

George Torres, 52, has pleaded not guilty to more than 50 counts, including racketeering, mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the federal government.

Manuel Torres, 55, has pleaded not guilty to three counts, including racketeering and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.

If convicted of all counts, they could each face life in prison. The government also is seeking the forfeiture of tens of millions of dollars.

George Torres has been portrayed by prosecutors as a greedy, calculating businessman who used street justice to help his cause
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