A grand jury in San Diego has handed down 14 indictments, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California has filed two criminal complaints, charging 36 defendants with a federal racketeering conspiracy, firearm offenses and drug trafficking violations, according to a report submitted to the 14,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police.
The charges stem from a year-long investigation dubbed “Operation Keys to the City” conducted by the multi-agency San Diego Violent Crimes Task Force-Gang Group, which targeted the criminal activities of the Mexican Mafia (or “La Eme”), Hispanic street gangs with ties to the Mexican Mafia and the Mexico-based Arellano-Felix drug trafficking organization.
The complaint charges 13 individuals with participating in a Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy. According to police reports, the defendants engaged in multiple racketeering acts in furtherance of the Mexican Mafia criminal enterprise, including among other things, attempted murder, kidnapping, assault, extortion, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and the distribution of controlled substances.
The RICO conspiracy complaint describes how the Mexican Mafia criminal organization exerted control over illegal activities within the California prison system and on the streets of Southern California through a hierarchical structure led by Mexican Mafia members.
According to the complaint, members delegate authority to Mexican Mafia associates to control specific areas both inside prisons and on the streets. This delegation of authority is referred to as giving “the keys” to the individual. In the prisons, Mexican Mafia members and associates control criminal activities in specific prison yards or an entire prison through acts of violence and threats.
The Mexican Mafia seeks to control criminal activity in San Diego neighborhoods and in communities throughout California through similar means.
For example, according to the complaint, on one occasion a Mexican Mafia member and his associates were involved in the collection of an outstanding drug debt for two Mexican nationals. The two Mexican nationals specifically sought the assistance of the Mexican Mafia. The group invaded the victim’s home armed with handguns and threatened to shoot the victim if payment was not made. The group then took four vehicles, approximately $2,000 in cash, and other personal items from the victim and victim’s family. Finally, the group told the victim that if law enforcement were notified, the group would kill the victim and the victim’s family.
As alleged in the complaint, such transnational criminal activity was only part of an overall effort by Mexican Mafia members and associates to forge greater ties to Mexican organized crime groups such as the Arellano-Felix organization. The Mexican Mafia and the Arellano-Felix organization work together in international drug-trafficking operations as well as the commission of acts of violence, such as kidnapping and attempted murder, both in San Diego and Mexico.
The 14 indictments charge an additional 19 defendants with various drug-trafficking and firearms offenses. The drug-trafficking violations include conspiracies to distribute methamphetamine and heroin, the distribution of methamphetamine and heroin, and the possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. The gun-related charges include firearms trafficking, providing a firearm to a known felon, the possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number and others.
U.S. Attorney Karen Hewitt said, “The illegal activities of the Mexican Mafia extend from our prisons to our neighborhoods and across the international border to Mexico. It is an organization predicated upon violence and intimidation and fueled by drug-trafficking proceeds and extortion. These indictments mark a significant step toward attacking these criminal organizations and diminishing their influence in our community.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Keith Slotter commented, “Today’s arrests removed many of San Diego’s most dangerous criminals from our streets. Though we were able to disrupt the activities of this violent organization, our work is not done. In order to keep our community safe, the FBI and our law enforcement partners remain committed to pursuing these gangs that engage in dangerous and illegal activities.”
The cases are being investigated by the FBI, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the National City Police Department, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the San Diego County Probation Department and United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The cases are being prosecuted in San Diego federal court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael J. Crowley, John N. Parmley, and Peter Mazza.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he’s the blog editor for the House Conservatives Fund’s weblog. Recently, the editors Examiner.com appointed him as their Law Enforcement Examiner. Kouri also serves as political advisor for Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor Michael Moriarty.
He’s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He’s also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. Kouri writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He’s a news writer for NewswithViews.com and PHXnews.com. He’s also a columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he’s syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He’s appeared as on-air commentator for over 300 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com. Kouri’s own website is located at http://jimkouri.us