CA: 31 Gang Members and Associates of Mexican Mafia Charged in Racketeering Indictment

Mexican Mafia Cartel – La Eme

A 33-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed today charges 31 members and associates of the Orange County Mexican Mafia with racketeering offenses, two murders and six attempted murders, and related drug and gun charges.

“The Mexican Mafia allegedly preyed on vulnerable communities through fear, violence, and intimidation,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This indictment sends a clear message that the Criminal Division, and our federal, state, and local partners, remain committed to protecting all of our communities from violence and exploitation.”

The indictment includes charges of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) conspiracy, violent crimes in aid of racketeering (VICAR) murder and attempted murder, conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute and distributing and possessing with intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin, using a firearm to cause a death, and other firearm charges.

“The violence, drug dealing, and other criminal acts being committed in our communities by gangsters associated with the Mexican Mafia is being met with the strongest possible response by law enforcement,” said U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison for the Central District of California. “We will continue to investigate, arrest and prosecute these individuals to the fullest extent of the law to restore a sense of safety to so many neighborhoods that have felt the impact of their destructive conduct.”

According to the allegations contained in the indictment:[1]

The OC Mexican Mafia, also known as La Eme, is a “gang of gangs” that controls and directs other Hispanic gangs operating in Southern California and within the California penal system. The OC Mexican Mafia members divided control of various areas in Southern California, with the member in control of a specific area controlling the criminal activities in that respective territory and receiving “taxes” paid by gangs to allow them to deal drugs in that area. In addition to this widespread “tax” collection, it is alleged that the OC Mexican Mafia directly engaged in drug distribution in and out of prisons and jails. The indictment also alleges that the OC Mexican Mafia maintained authority over other Hispanic street gangs through murder, attempted murder and violent assaults with weapons including firearms.

“Cases targeting criminal enterprises like the Mexican Mafia require close collaboration with our local and federal partners and employ a variety of sophisticated techniques to overcome their evasive tactics,” said the Assistant Director in Charge Kristi K. Johnson of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The Mexican Mafia in Orange County controls the majority of local gangs and rules by threatening violence and exacting violence on their enemies or against their own members who don’t follow strict rules. This indictment is the latest in our continuing joint efforts to target gangs and drug networks that fuel the violence in our communities.”

The indictment further alleges that in or around 2016, and continuing to at least in or around April 2022, defendants Johnny Martinez, Robert Aguirre and Dennis Ortiz were the OC Mexican Mafia members in charge of criminal activities in Orange County and within Orange County jail and prison facilities. Defendants Omar Mejia, Miguel Jose Alvarado, Luis Heriberto Vasquez, Michael Cooper and Abraham Guajardo held positions of shot-callers or mouthpieces for Martinez, Aguirre, and Ortiz. Defendant Robert Martinez held a position of authority within the Orange County Jail as defendant Johnny Martinez’s representative. Defendant Brenda Vanessa Campos Martinez served as a secretary for defendant Johnny Martinez, and defendant Danielle Canales served in a similar capacity for defendants Johnny Martinez and Cooper. The violent crimes alleged against the OC Mexican Mafia include:

  • The Jan. 19, 2017, armed robbery and shooting death of R.R.;
  • The Aug. 21, 2017, shooting death of R.V., who was shot seven times in the back of the head and body, and left dead on the street in Orange, California;
  • The Aug. 5, 2017, attempted murder of defendant Munoz, who had fallen out of favor with The OC Mexican Mafia and was shot seven times;
  • The Dec. 1, 2017, attempted murder of D.D., a representative of a Hispanic street gang, who was allegedly abusing his power and authority within the OC Mexican Mafia enterprise;
  • The Dec. 12, 2017, attempted murder of E.O., an OC Mexican Mafia associate incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison, who was believed to have violated the OC Mexican Mafia’s code by warning individuals that they were targeted for violence by the OC Mexican Mafia, and who suffered multiple injuries, including puncture wounds to his shoulders, stomach, lower back, and upper back;
  • The Dec. 25, 2017, attempted murder of R.M. for showing disrespect to defendant Martinez;
  • The July 29, 2020, attempted murder of F.B., a member of an Orange County Hispanic street gang incarcerated at the Theo Lacy Facility, who was targeted because he purportedly claimed that he would speak to law enforcement about the Mexican Mafia, and whose throat was slit; and
  • Two murder attempts on Jan. 5, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2019, of defendant Cooper, who had fallen out of favor with defendants Martinez and Aguirre, and who in one incident was stabbed multiple times in the head and back area, and in the second was cut in the throat and face.

In addition to these alleged violent acts, law enforcement investigated the OC Mexican Mafia’s methamphetamine and heroin trafficking activities on the streets, as well as in the prisons and jails, and completed multiple undercover purchases of methamphetamine and heroin from OC Mexican Mafia associates who were selling narcotics on behalf of defendant Martinez and the OC Mexican Mafia.

Out of the 31 defendants charged in the indictment, 21 were already in custody, and nine were arrested last night and this morning. Those arrested today are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, and those already in custody will make initial appearances once each defendant is in federal custody.

The RICO statute provides for a maximum penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment for acts performed as part of the criminal organization. The VICAR statute provides for a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment for murder, a maximum sentence of 20 years for assault with a dangerous weapon, a maximum sentence of 10 years for attempted murder, and a maximum sentence of three years for attempted assault with a dangerous weapon. The charge of possessing, using, carrying and discharging a firearm in furtherance of, during and in relation to a crime of violence carries a maximum sentence of life, with a mandatory sentence of at least five years and up to 10 years. The charge of causing death using a firearm carries a maximum sentence of life. Distribution and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin carries a maximum sentence of life, and a minimum mandatory sentence of at least five years and up to 10 years. Felon in possession of a firearm or ammunition carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI; the DEA; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); IRS-Criminal Investigation; the Santa Ana Police Department; the Anaheim Police Department; the Fullerton Police Department; the Orange Police Department; the Placentia Police Department; the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; the Orange County Probation Department; the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) are investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Marianne Shelvey and Danbee Kim of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Ahn, Gregory Scally, and Gregory Staples of the Central District of California are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Press Release

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