The latest RICO case against La Eme and Puente 13

What probably got the federal RICO case against La Eme and Puente 13 off the ground likely boils down to one paragraph in the federal indictment:

On or about July 3, 2006, in Los Angeles County, within the Central District of California, defendants GONZALEZ, BLANCO, S. NUNEZ, and A. TORRES willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation, unlawfully killed with malice aforethought D.D., in violation of California Penal Code, Sections 21a, 31, 187, and 189.

The read the complete indictment click here.

The big question: Did inestigators rely on snitches, undercover agents, wiretaps or all three?

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Puente 13 — suspected La Eme associates — arrested by feds

Eight suspected members of the Puente 13 street gang were arrested Tuesday morning by federal authorities in a racketeering and drug case.

The feds allege that the group was involved in violent crimes and selling meth to help fund La Eme — the Mexican Mafia.

The 22-count indictment names 17 defendants. Sixteen are charged with taking part in a RICO conspiracy.

“Puente-13, a street gang that was formed in the City of La Puente approximately 60
years ago. Puente-13 claims as its turf a large portion of La Puente, as well as
unincorporated parts of the San Gabriel Valley and portions of nearby cities such as
Hacienda Heights, Walnut and West Covina,” according to U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek. “The gang is comprised of approximately 600 members and includes at least 14 subsets or ‘cliques.’”

Among those arrested was Rafael Munoz “Cisco” Gonzalez, the group’s alleged kingpin.

“Violent drug gangs continue to wreak havoc within our communities,” said Drug
Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum. “Today’s
arrests send the message that law enforcement will continue to work together to take
back our neighborhoods and get violent drug traffickers and gangs off our streets.”

Four of the defendants in the federal racketeering case are eligible for the death
penalty because of their involvement in the 2006 murder of the rival gang member identified as David Dragna, 44, who was collecting taxes without authorization.
Arrested were Cesar Munoz “Blanco” Gonzalez, 36, of Rowland Heights, Steven “Flaco” Nunez, 30, in state prison, Angel Frank “Smiley” Torres, 34, also in state prison.

“Authorities are continuing to search for two defendants named in the RICO
indictment – Adrian Rodriguez, also known as “Trips”, 25, of Huntington Park; and Henry
Rick Zabala, 40, of La Puente.”

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Thursday’s column

There’s no margin in cop killing.

Just ask members of the Avenues gang, affiliates of the Mexican Mafia, who got rolled Tuesday up by the LAPD, the FBI and an alphabet soup of local, county and federal law enforcement agencies.

It stemmed from the Aug. 2, 2008 killing of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Juan Escalante. A guard in the county jail, Escalante was gunned down in front of his parents’ home in the Cypress Park neighborhood just northeast of downtown.

Cops have charged three affiliates of the gang with the killing, and are seeking a fourth. The arrests didn’t keep the LAPD and the feds from using every weapon at their disposal to crack the Avenues’ hierarchy, many of who happen to be incarcerated.

The list of crimes detailed in the 222-page federal indictment includes murder, robbery, witness intimidation, money laundering, weapons possession and dealing drugs like crack and speed.

| Link: Copy of Avenues Indictment

It could put some of these guys away for life in federal prisons away from the corrupting influence of county jail and state prison.

If the indictment is any indication, members of the gang don’t fear police. They don’t fear the prisons and certainly don’t fear Joe Citizen.

Among their mottos is “Avenidas don’t get chased by police, we chase them.”

Another motto, “Avenidas don’t just hurt people, we kill them.”

As for those named in the indictment, several have had federal cases before, including Alex “Pee Wee” Aguirre, who was a defendant in a large scale case against the Mexican Mafia brought by the feds in 1995.

Some of the acts mentioned in the federal indictment unsealed Tuesday were chronicled as far back as 1999.

Much of the new case appears to have been made with wiretaps. Men and women were captured on tape discussing things as mundane as where they should live or as sinister as creating lists of who should be killed.

A lot of it was done by tapping the cell phone of Richie Aguirre who was doing time in Kern Valley State Prison, but was able to smuggle in a phone nonetheless.

As such, gangsters aren’t the only ones to have to answer for what appears in the indictment.

Gun control advocates should explain how exactly gun control works. Gang members seem to have an endless supply of what are essentilly illegal semi-automatic assault weapons at their disposal.

State and local law enforcement officials have to do some serious soul searching as well.

Sheriff Lee Baca for one should explain how it is that drug smuggling is occurring in the county jails.

State prison officials should explain how the Mexican Mafia is allowed to hold executive level discussions while incarcerated. They might also want to explain how drugs and cell phones get past the screws and into the joint.

These are the same prison guards that nearly bankrupt this state with their outrageous pay, benefits and retirement plans. These are the same prison guards who look the other way when racial tensions flare and prison riots break out.

How much do you want to bet none of this Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or whatever political apointee heads up the state prison system?

Guys like defendant Richie Aguirre know the real score when it comes to state prison guards. During one wiretapped conversation he advises a young woman to stay out of the profession.

“Aguirre told an unidentified female that she should not become a prison guard because they become corrupt and are used to smuggle narcotics into the prison for the inmates.”

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Will it spill over the border?

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Reports that two Mexican drug cartels have joined forces and have a combined fighting force of 100,000 foot soldiers has some local officials concerned that the drug war south of the border could spill into our communities.

The idea of such an alliance reminds me of the gang truce between rival hispanic street gangs that led to the rise of La Eme in the 1990s.

In any event, Mexican President Felipe Calderon defended his country’s efforts agsinst Narco-Terrorists in Mexico City this afternoon. Here’s Bloomberg’s take:

March 12 (Bloomberg) — Mexican President Felipe Calderon delivered his strongest defense yet of his government’s fight against drug cartels, alleging some U.S. officials are corrupt and accusing the media of lying.

“To say that Mexico doesn’t have authority over all of its national territory is absolutely false and absurd,” Calderon said today in Mexico City.

Mexico hasn’t lost any territory to traffickers, Calderon said. He criticized the media for mounting a campaign of “lies” against Mexico. His comments come two days after Dennis Blair, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, said Mexico isn’t in charge of parts of the country.

Calderon, 46, came to power in 2006 promising a crackdown on the cartels. He has sent tens of thousands of soldiers to areas where smugglers battle over routes into the U.S. Retaliating for arrests and record drug seizures, gangs beheaded rival smugglers, assassinated police officials and executed entire families.

The drug war is reducing annual gross domestic product by 1 percentage point, according to the government. Narcotics-related deaths more than doubled last year as Calderon‘s crackdown disrupted drug operations and increased competition for the best supply routes to the U.S.

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