Grand jury targets unified gangs
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.