Gangbanger Looking at Decades in Prison

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – The leader of an Oxnard street gang faces four consecutive life sentences plus 55 years after being convicted of gun and drug charges, federal prosecutors said.
     A federal jury issued a guilty verdict Friday night against Luis Manuel Tapia, 37, the leader of the Colonia Chiques gang in Ventura County. Tapia is also affiliated with the Mexican Mafia prison gang, prosecutors said.
     Tapia was found guilty of 26 federal charges, including leading a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, distribution of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, and several gun charges.
     Authorities seized 2.5 pounds of heroin, more than 9 ounces of cocaine, 9.6 ounces of methamphetamine, cash and two loaded firearms as part of their investigation into Tapia and his co-defendants.
     An unidentified man called “Pancho” supplied Tapia with the drugs he sold through the gang, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He is believed to be a fugitive in Mexico.
     Authorities also seized 19 firearms, including an AR-15 assault rifle, a custom-built AK-47 with a bayonet, a pistol grip sawed-off shotgun and machine-gun.
     During his two-week trial, the jury heard that Tapia likened himself to the CEO of a company, and his gang to big-box retailers like Walmart. The gang leader liked to tout the quality of his product, according to prosecutors, and they were not empty boasts.
     In October 2011, Tapia was involved in a transaction where 10 pounds of pure methamphetamine changed hands, prosecutors said. He was captured on tape stating that the Mexican Mafia supplied the gang 100 percent pure methamphetamine.
     In the second part of the sting, called Operation Supernova, an FBI investigator went undercover in Las Vegas, posing as an Italian mobster. During talks to supply a Vegas arm of the Italian Mafia with 20 pounds per month of pure methamphetamine, Tapia told the undercover agent that his heroin was so strong it had killed six people, prosecutors said.
     In video played to the jury, Tapia said the deaths were a “good advertisement” for his product. Another video captured Tapia addressing Colonia Chiques members, ordering them to find and kill informants.
     Tapia’s co-defendants, Diana Zamora, Edgar Aguilar, Roger Armendariz and Jaime Cardenas, have pleaded guilty to conspiring to traffic narcotics and/or firearms. They received sentences of up to 10 years in federal prison.
     In early 2011, prosecutors charged 11 people linked to the Colonia Chiques as part of the same operation. Each defendant received 25 years in prison.
     Ventura County Federal Violent Crimes Task Force, which included FBI agents and Oxnard police officers, conducted the investigation.
     U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II will sentence Tapia on Dec. 15. He faces four mandatory life sentences, and a consecutive 55-year sentence.

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