Man sentenced for 2006 La Puente ‘execution’ of Valinda man who failed to pay ‘taxes’ to Mexican Mafia

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.

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18th Street clique charged with baby killing in Federal gang case

From the Associated Press:

LOS ANGELES – Federal authorities have unsealed a racketeering indictment charging about 40 members and associates of a clique of Los Angeles’ 18th Street gang with a slew of offenses, including the murder of a 3-week-old baby.

The FBI said Tuesday that federal and local agents had arrested eight of those named in the indictment. Several others were already in state and local custody.

Among the crimes outlined in the indictment, members of the gang are accused of the 2007 killing of the baby near MacArthur Park, as well as the 2001 murder of an innocent man who was mistaken for a rival.

The indictment also charges a defense attorney with laundering illegal proceeds on behalf of the Mexican Mafia, a prison-based gang.

*Here’s a copy of the 144-page indictment: clcs 2nd superseding rico final.pdf
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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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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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