LOS ANGELES (CN) — Thirty-one members and associates of the Mexican Mafia prison gang face charges of running a criminal enterprise in Orange County, California, that involved murder, attempted murder, assault and extortion.
Out of the 31 charged, 21 were already in custody and nine were arrested in the last 24 hours, according to a statement Wednesday from the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
“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,” U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkison said in the statement. “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.”
The Mexican Mafia, also known as La Eme, controls many Hispanic street gangs in Southern California and demands "taxes" from them if they want to maintain control over their territory, sell drugs and commit other crimes. Since members of these street gangs can expect to end up in prison at one point or another — where they have to depend on the protection and good will of the Mexican Mafia — many Hispanic gangs are aligned with the Mexican Mafia and have added "13" to the name of the gang in reference to the 13th letter of the alphabet, "M."
“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," Kristi Johnson, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said in Wednesday's statement.
Federal prosecutors have for years relied on the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a 1970 statute enacted to fight organized crime, to take down motorcycle, prison and street gangs. Just a few weeks ago, a jury found the leader of the East Coast Crips in South LA guilty of racketeering conspiracy and murder.
The charges unsealed Wednesday against the Orange County Mexican Mafia include two murders and seven attempted murders, including on Mexican Mafia associates who had fallen out of favor or had broken the rules and who themselves are defendants in the racketeering indictment. One defendant, who is the only one of the 31 still at large, was the target of two murder attempts in which he was stabbed multiple times and cut in the face and throat.
The accused include three members, or "brothers," of the Orange County Mexican Mafia. The members of the gang, according to indictment, divide between themselves control over specific territories in Southern California, including the street gangs within those territories. They also control the prison and jail facilities within their territories, including drug smuggling and sales within these facilities.
The associates charged were shot-callers and other underlings of the members. The indicted also included two "secretaries" that worked for the gang.
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