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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Plea deal for La Puente’s Mayor Lujan in the works

Louie Lujan allegedly failed to report some campaign cash and faces a lifetime out of politics. 

Here’s the latest from reporter James Wagner:

LA PUENTE – Prosecutors have offered Mayor Louie Lujan a plea deal in a perjury case against him.

Lujan, who faces one felony count of perjury for filing an allegedly false campaign finance report, will appear Thursday in a court that officials said handles cases before they enter the traditional criminal court process.

“If he enters a plea on this count as charged, then that will end the case,” said Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman of the Public Integrity Division.

The plea offer consists of three years probation and a $1,000 fine, Huntsman said.

Thursday’s court date in Superior Court is for an early disposition hearing, where it is determined if a case can be “disposed of early,” Deputy Clerk Lorraine Valdez said.

There is no testimony or witnesses, she said.

The prosecution and defense must both agree to enter the early disposition hearing, Huntsman said.

A judge would have to sign off on an agreed plea deal, officials said.

Lujan and his attorney, Glen Jonas, did not return repeated calls Monday for comment.

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Corruption, racism and other strange happenings in the Valley

Lately, there’s been a hefty dose of folks taking filet knives to local government and exposing some of the dirty inner workings. Here’s a sampling of some of the bad and the ugly:

A group of Montebello cops claim their chief is a racist who only promotes his white friends. The claim carries a $30 million price tag.
The grand jury indicts a cop accused of embezzling $500,000 from tow fees collected at the Industry Station. Sgt. Joe Dyer had been on leave since 2008.
In the camellia-scented cesspool that is Temple City, a former city council candidate pleaded guilty to perjury in a case that will probably expose a corrupt money laundering scheme involving Piazza Las Tunas. 
Welcome to the San Gabriel Valley!
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Victim’s rights advocates want answers in La Puente

The La Puente City Council is prepared to take a vote tonight possibly indicating support for a bill in the state assembly that would reduce the sentences of young murderers. Here’s the text of an email I received this morning from Tracy Ponce, whose daughter was killed then stuffed in a van in the parking lot of the Pomona Police station:

Come and speak out against the City of La Puente Council’s consideration of sending a letter of support for SB399.

This Bill (SB 399) in Sacramento would allow murders convicted at an age under 18 and sentenced to life without parole to have their sentences reviewed and reduced after 10 years.

The council meeting starts at 7:00 p.m.

To Speak: You will need to fill out a slip which is on the table to the left as you enter the chamber. Give the form to the clerk in the front. These speak forms must be given to the clerk before the first speaker has concluded their remarks.

It would also be great if we all wear or beautiful t-shirts, buttons, hats or anything that has our loved ones picture on it, so that the City of La Puente Council can see why we are against them supporting SB 399.

If you are unable to make it to this meeting, please feel free to send the City of La Puente, (especially Councilmen John Solis) an email, letter or even a phone call to let them know that you are AGAINST supporting this outrageous bill called SB 399.

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Back from Spring Break

Looks like crime in the Valley soared over Easter Week. Shootings in La Puente, Rosemead and a guy in West Covina beat and sliced up his wife, according to the cops.

Ladies getting ready for Easter even had to be careful in a Rowland Heights nail salon.
Oh, and apparently Centinelhas returned to the Foothill Cities Blog.
Such is life in the SGV. I wouldn’t trade it for any thing else though.
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Anaheim cops catch La Puente crooks

From the Anaheim PD:

On January 8th, the Anaheim Police Department asked for the public’s help in identifying and locating 2 males responsible for commercial robberies. Surveillance photos and video were distributed to the media.

Both subjects were believed to be responsible for 7 robberies that occurred in Anaheim since December 3, 2008. In these seperates cases, one or both men enter a commercial businesses acting as if they were customers or clients. A handgun was produced, money demanded and the robbery completed. One of the males has a 5-pointed star tattoo on his right elbow.

As a result of the media exposure, information was received from the public identifying the subjects. On Thursday evening, January 29th, robbery detectives arrested Jose Angel Rodriguez and Roberto Antonio Ruiz for these robberies. They were arrested near the 800 block of Dade Avenue in the city of La Puente, where they reside.( They were out in a public near near their residence). They have been booked in the Anaheim Detention Facility for the robberies.

The Anaheim Police Department extends their appreciation to the public for their

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Tow fee scandal forces reexamination of policy

Sheriff Lee Baca responded to a series of articles that have appeared in this paper over the past week. Here’s the top of our story:

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is reexamining how it collects towing fees in response to allegations a former traffic sergeant took nearly $500,000 from the city of La Puente in impound revenues, officials said.

“We are doing that now,” Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said. “We are probably going to go to a cashless system. Using something like an ATM card to make it more difficult for theft to occur.”

Whitmore also said the department is reviewing several other internal policies and will consult with the Board of Supervisors.

Former Sgt. Joe Dyer, who used to work out of the Industry sheriff’s station until he retired in May, has been under investigation since the beginning of the year.

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From the mail box

I just finished reading your article in today’s SGVT in regard to the “Tow fee controversy.”  It is certainly sad that a “model law-enforcement agency” has been tarnished by the act of one individual and or others who failed to oversee the procedure of collecting tow fees. I would like to refer you to the comment made by John Stites, president of the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association who stated in the article published on Friday, October 17th:  “The higher-ups in the department bear responsibility for the missing money” He goes on to say: “We’re not money men, Oftentimes they put us in positions we are not trained to handle and it ends up going bad.  I’ve seen it happen more than once.” 
Of course this does not mean that someone is not responsible for his or her own lack of honesty, nor does it mean that all the blame should be given to the current higher-up’s.  If my information is correct, and perhaps you would be interested in looking for the facts regarding the policy of where and how money was collected for city tow fees that was instigated years ago during Sherman Block’s term as Sheriff of L. A. County.   It was and is a poorly thought out policy. 
Now, for the main reason I am taking the time to write to you personally.  As I continued to read your article, I was disappointed in you and your comments regarding the “Joe Six-Packs” of the world and the “greasy paws of a tow monkey.”  I don’t think you considered that everyone who gets their vehicle towed does not fall into the category that you so cutely labeled “Joe Six-Packs” .  People get their vehicles towed for many reasons,  Often, it may be because their vehicle was stolen, recovered and impounded.  They are innocent victims of a crime committed against them. I won’t take the time to go into the other various reasons that vehicles are towed, stored or impounded, but I assure you that most of the time it is not for drunken driving as you insinuated.  As for the comment:  “No doubt it would be a helluva lot easier than putting the cash in the hands of a greasy paws of a tow monkey” …..What where you thinking? 
First of all, money collected by towing companies are generally collected at a office counter staffed by reputable employees. Secondly, for you to demean the men and women who perform a service for individuals, the community and the police agencies shows me that you are not in touch with reality.  Have you ever noticed a tow truck on the freeway assisting in the removal of a disabled or wrecked vehicle. Would you not agree that the driver is putting him or herself in danger?  If you should ever have the misfortune to be stranded in your vehicle, would you consider the person who is coming to your aid a….”greasy tow monkey?”
I don’t know anything about you, other than the fact that according to your column you have the title of Metro Editor.  Therefore, even though I might disagree with your published comments, I would never put a derogatory label on you.  I suggest that in the future you might want to refrain from labeling people with inflammatory character references.
Andria Welch

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