LOS ANGELES >> A former gang member from Baldwin Park received a 24-year prison sentence this week for his role in a federal drug trafficking conspiracy in which he admitted personally executing another gang member from Valinda who failed to pay “taxes,” or extortion payments, to the Mexican Mafia, authorities announced Thursday.
Eddie “Criminal” Garcia, a former 18th Street gang member with ties to Baldwin Park and El Sereno, pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Los Angeles to a charge of participating in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine as part of a federal case targeting the Mexican Mafia-controlled Puente 13 street gang.
As part of his plea agreement, Garcia admitted to luring and fatally shooting David Dragna, 44, of Valinda at an apartment complex in the 14700 block of Prichard Street in La Puente on July 3, 2006, U.S. Department of Justice Thom Mrozek said in a written statement.
“Garcia admitted that in 2006 he and two members of Puente 13 lured another gang member to an apartment complex, where Garcia executed the victim with a bullet to the head,” Mrozek said.
Garcia carried out the killing on the orders of leaders of Puente 13, who accused Dragna of keeping extortion payments on drug proceeds, or “taxes,” intended for the Mexican Mafia, officials said. Dragna was a member of the Townsmen gang, which also operates in the Valinda Corridor in the central Can Gabriel Valley.
“This defendant killed another human being in cold blood to further his own criminal credentials and to further his drug trafficking career,” U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California Eileen M. Decker said. “While he may have believed he could get away with murder, the hard work and dedication of law enforcement and prosecutors in my office ensured that he was held accountable. This case is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of gang violence on our community and the severe consequences that will result from participating in those criminal enterprises.”
At the time of Garcia’s plea deal, the prosecution and defense in the case agreed to recommend Garcia be sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald opted for the high end of the range, sentencing Garcia on Monday to 24 years behind bars, as well as eight years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison term.
The two Puente 13 gang members who joined Garcia in the killing have since pleaded guilty to the slaying, Mrozek said. Angel “Smiley” Torres is serving a 15-and-a-half-year prison term, and Steven “Flaco” Nunez is serving a 10-year sentence.
As part of the same investigation into Puente 13, which began in 2008, longtime gang leader Rafael “Cisco” Munoz-Gonzalez, 42, of La Puente and his brother, Cesar “Blanco” Munoz-Gonazalez of Rowland Heights, received life sentenced in federal prison in 2013 after being convicted at trial of violating the Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organizations Act, as well as committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering, engaging in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, weapons charges and other offenses.
The investigation into Puente 13 has resulted in four indictments and the convictions of about five-dozen gang members and associates, officials said.
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?