RICO Case: Mexican Mafia “Shot Caller” Nabbed for Murder of 3-Week-Old Baby
By: Jim Kouri, CPP
(The following is based on reports and court documents obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police’s Organized Crime Committee.)
Federal and local law enforcement authorities on Tuesday arrested eight of 39 members and associates of one of the most entrenched â€œcliquesâ€ of the 18th Street Gang after the return of federal criminal charges alleging that the gang operated a racketeering enterprise responsible for the October 2007 attempted murder of a street vendor near MacArthur Park that resulted in the fatal shooting of a 3-week-old infant, a murder of an innocent young man that occurred in 2001, and other crimes.
Two weeks ago, a federal grand jury issued a superseding indictment in a racketeering case that now charges 39 members and associates of the Colombia Lil Cycos (CLCS) set of the 18th Street Gang. In addition to the fatal shooting of the infant, which is also being prosecuted by the District Attorney in Los Angeles, the federal indictment alleges that the gang was responsible for the subsequent kidnaping and attempted murder of the CLCS member who wounded the vendor and killed the child.
The superseding indictment also charges three defendants with the 2001 murder of Jose Barajas, whom gang members allegedly mistook for a rival. In addition, the indictment charges a criminal defense attorney with laundering the gangâ€™s illegal proceeds and committing other acts on behalf of, and at the direction of, an imprisoned Mexican Mafia member, identified in the indictment only as “Mexican Mafia #1.”
The anti-gang operation is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles Police Department. This federal indictment supersedes an October 2007 federal indictment that charged 18 defendants with alleged drug trafficking, and a subsequent November 2007 federal indictment that charged a nineteenth defendant. Fifteen of the defendants named in the original federal indictments are charged in this superseding federal indictment, along with an additional 24 defendants who were not previously charged.
The 31-count superseding federal indictment unsealed today charges 39 members and associates of the CLCS with participating in a racketeering conspiracy that involved acts of violence, narcotics distribution, money laundering and violent crimes in aid of racketeering (VICAR). Lead defendant Sergio Pantoja, aka â€œTricky,â€ 33, is described in the indictment as a â€œShot Callerâ€ of the CLCS, which is alleged to have been controlled by a Mexican Mafia member currently serving a life-without-parole sentence.
The CLCS allegedly used violence and intimidation to control narcotics distribution in an area adjoining MacArthur Park in the Westlake District of Los Angeles. According to the indictment, under Pantojaâ€™s direction, as well as the direction of CLCS Shot Callers who preceded Pantoja, narcotics suppliers and street dealers paid â€œrentâ€ â€“ typically a percentage of proceeds from the sale of narcotics â€“ in exchange for permission from the CLCS to sell narcotics in the gangâ€™s territory; those who paid rent received the exclusive authorization to sell narcotics in CLCS territory as well as protection from rivals.
The indictment also alleges that street vendors operating in CLCS territory were required to pay rent to the gang in order to be allowed to sell their wares near MacArthur Park. According to the indictment, failure or refusal to pay rent and otherwise follow the gangâ€™s rules would result in retribution, including acts of violence.
The indictment alleges that on September 15, 2007, after a street vendor refused to make a nominal rent payment to the CLCS, at the direction of Pantoja, several CLCS members and associates acted together to shoot and seriously injure the vendor. Although the man survived, a 3-week-old infant sitting in a stroller next to the vendor was struck by a bullet and killed.
According to the federal indictment, shortly after the failed attempt to murder the vendor and the resulting fatal shooting of the infant, Pantoja ordered the kidnaping and murder of the shooter to make amends with the Mexican Mafia. 18th Street Gang members thereafter took the shooter to Mexico under the false pretense of hiding him from the police. Once in Mexico, the federal indictment alleges, the shooter was driven to a remote area, where he was strangled, and dumped on the side of a road. Unbeknownst to his would-be killers, the shooter survived the attack.
â€œToday we are holding this gang accountable for the violence and intimidation it used to bring terror to the citizens living and working within the gangâ€™s territory,â€ said United States Attorney Thomas P. Oâ€™Brien. â€œThe tragic murder of a 3-week-old infant is the result of a rebuffed demand for $50. The citizens of this community deserve better, and we are working with every tool at our disposal to clean the streets of gang activity.â€
“This investigation is the result of several years of collaboration by agents and their partners with the LAPD and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to identify the senior leadership of this particular 18th Street gang clique, and to use federal racketeering statutes to target shot callers who, otherwise, would continue to operate with impunity,” said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles.
The indictment charges criminal defense attorney Isaac Guillen, 48, of West Covina, with regularly transferring thousands of dollars of CLCS rent proceeds to a Mexican Mafia member imprisoned at the federal â€œSupermaxâ€ facility in Florence, Colorado. According to the indictment, from October 2003 until September 2008, Guillen transferred approximately $27,500 into the Mexican Mafia memberâ€™s prison account. The indictment also alleges that Guillen and the imprisoned Mexican Mafia Member are partners in several businesses, including a limousine service, a liquor distributor, and a real estate holding corporation.
“We have known for a long time that this particular clique of the 18th Street gang was a criminal enterprise with a reach far beyond any single neighborhood or city,” said Chief William Bratton of the Los Angeles Police Department. “Today is an excellent example of multiple law enforcement agencies working together to impact a criminal street gang with tentacles that cross jurisdictional lines and even prison walls.”
All of the defendants charged in the federal indictment are facing a potential maximum sentence of life imprisonment based on their alleged participation in the CLCS racketeering conspiracy and/or their alleged participation in narcotics distribution within CLCS territory. Each of the defendants alleged to have participated in the September 2007 murder of the three-week old infant, as well as three individuals charged in connection with the July 2001 murder of 22 year old Jose Barajas, face a potential maximum penalty of death.
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 new editor for the House Conservatives Fund’s weblog. 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 TheConservativeVoice.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 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc.
To subscribe to Kouri’s newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write “Subcription” on the subject line.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he's a columnist for The Examiner (examiner.com) and New Media Alliance (thenma.org). In addition, he's a blogger for the Cheyenne, Wyoming Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB (www.kgab.com). 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 and columnist for AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. Kouri appears regularly as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Fox News Channel, Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, etc. To subscribe to Kouri's newsletter write to COPmagazine@aol.com and write "Subscription" on the subject line.