Grand jury tar­gets uni­fied gangs

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Richard Win­ton and Joseph Serna richard.win­ton@latimes.com joseph.serna@latimes.com

Nearly two dozen mem­bers of three north­east Los An­ge­les gangs united by the Mex­i­can Mafia have been in­dicted by a fed­eral grand jury on charges of rack­e­teer­ing, ex­tort­ing money from drug sellers and con­spir­ing to kill ri­vals.

The in­dict­ment un­sealed Thurs­day re­veals the Mex­i­can Mafia united the lead­er­ship of three multi-gen­er­a­tional gangs — Frog­town, the Ras­cals and Toon­erville — that con­trol ter­ri­to­ries in At­wa­ter Vil­lage, Glendale and north­east Los An­ge­les.

Set­ting aside decades of ri­valry, the gangs’ hun­dreds of mem­bers united un­der the lead­er­ship of Arnold Gon­za­les, a key leader of the Mex­i­can Mafia serv­ing a life sen­tence in Pel­i­can Bay State Prison, and Jorge Grey, Frog­town’s leader, ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment.

Grey, Fru­toso Men­doza and a third de­fen­dant re­main at large.

The groups uni­fied un­der a “peace treaty” with Grey serv­ing as the al­liance’s leader, author­i­ties al­lege. To­gether, the gangs con­trolled the nar­cotics busi­ness and col­lected “taxes” from street drug deal­ers op­er­at­ing in the area.

Us­ing coded lan­guage, the gang ar­ranged shoot­ings, drug deals and pun­ish­ments for those who op­posed their reign.

“You had three ri­val gangs com­ing to­gether as one crim­i­nal en­ter­prise,” said Car­los Canino, spe­cial agent with the fed­eral Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives in Los An­ge­les. “I haven’t seen that since the ri­ots.”

Chief As­sis­tant U.S. Atty. Robert Dug­dale said that early in the uni­fi­ca­tion, one leader re­fused to go along with the plan. He was shot eight times and later joined the en­ter­prise. Dug­dale said that ATF, the LAPD and Glendale po­lice worked to­gether to take “decisive ac­tion that will erad­i­cate this new or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

In one case, Grey is be­lieved to have shot a drug dealer who failed to com­ply with a re­quire­ment to pay “taxes.” The mes­sage sent, Dug­dale said, was “you don’t pay, you get killed.”

Dug­dale said the new or­ga­ni­za­tion at­tempted to fill a vac­uum cre­ated by pre­vi­ous fed­eral in­dict­ments.

The char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion Home­boy In­dus­tries, Dug­dale said, was un­wit­tingly used by sev­eral de­fen­dants. Some gang mem­bers were us­ing the non­profit, which has been praised for help­ing for­mer gang mem­bers, to hide their “crim­i­nal stripes,” he said.

Home­boy In­dus­tries did not re­turn mes­sages seek­ing com­ment.

They also dis­cussed where to ar­range “tax” rev­enue col­lec­tion points and where they could trade weapons. Ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment, San­tos Zepeda, a.k.a. “Slim,” spoke with a fel­low gang mem­ber about meet­ing a man who owed $5,000 at Home­boy In­dus­tries in March 2013.

Pros­e­cu­tors say Grey gave one of his co-de­fen­dants a .38-cal­iber gun at Home­boy In­dus­tries in May 2013. It was wrapped in one of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s shirts.

The in­dict­ment lists 22 peo­ple un­der the fed­eral Rack­e­teer In­flu­enced and Cor­rupt Or­ga­ni­za­tions Act, all of whom face up to 20 years in prison if con­victed. Two other men are charged with fed­eral drug of­fenses, author­i­ties said.

Toon­erville is the largest of the three gangs, with an es­ti­mated 450 mem­bers, ac­cord­ing to the in­dict­ment. The Ras­cals and Frog­town have an es­ti­mated 120 and 90 mem­bers, author­i­ties said.

The Mex­i­can Mafia launched its plan to unite the gangs af­ter it seized con­trol of north­east L.A. in 2010, the in­dict­ment said.

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