FBI releases photos of suspects still at large
U.S. Attorney Duffy said, “The cases unsealed today make communities stronger and safer. The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to an anti-gang, anti-violence strategy built on close coordination between federal, state and local officials. This coordination provides better intelligence about street gangs and violent crime within our communities. And better intelligence means better law enforcement and prosecutions.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Keith Slotter commented, “Today’s arrests mark one of the largest single takedowns in San Diego FBI history. The FBI and our law enforcement partners stand unified in our efforts to protect this county from the violence, drug trafficking and extortion schemes employed by the Mexican Mafia and its affiliates. San Diego is inherently safer today because of the cooperation between our agencies working together to disrupt and dismantle the criminal activities of these dangerous individuals.”
“This is a traditional case of dishonor amongst thieves,” commented San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. “Gangs were made to pay ‘taxes’ in order to facilitate their trafficking and violent behavior. We answered with a one-two punch: a strong and experienced multi-agency investigation, armed with the RICO statute. The results speak for themselves.”
The charges stem from three investigations entitled, “Operation Notorious County,” “Operation Carnalismo,” and “Operation 12-Step.”
The indictments are the result of an 18-month-long investigation entitled, “Operation Notorious County,” led by the North County Regional Gang Task force. Eight indictments charging 51 individuals, including one charging 40 defendants with participating in a federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) conspiracy were unsealed today. All five indictments were handed up by a federal grand jury sitting in San Diego on Jan. 19, 2012. The RICO conspiracy alleged in the indictment involves the commission of both state and federal crimes, including attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery, extortion, money laundering, and drug trafficking violations. As set forth in the indictment, the defendants are members, associates and facilitators of violent street gangs operating primarily in north San Diego County under the auspices of the Mexican Mafia or “La Eme.” The gangs named in the indictment include the Diablos and West Side gangs, based in Escondido, Calif., as well as the Varrio San Marcos and the Varrio Fallbrook Locos. The individuals named in the indictment were involved in a long-standing criminal enterprise used to extort money by threat or violence. The money was then sent on to high-ranking members of the Mexican Mafia, including defendant Rudy Espudo. The indictment alleges that Espudo is a validated member of the Mexican Mafia who oversees their activities throughout much of northern San Diego County.
In “Operation Carnalismo,” led by the Violent Crime Task Force-Gang Group, a group of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents led by the FBI, five indictments charging 36 individuals were unsealed today. Eight defendants are charged in one indictment with a conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity (RICO), violent crime in aid of racketeering (VCAR), distribution and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin and criminal forfeiture. Four additional indictments, charging 28 defendants were also unsealed. These related indictments charge distribution and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and criminal forfeiture. All five indictments were handed up by a federal grand jury sitting in San Diego on Jan. 24, 2012, and unsealed today. The RICO indictment charges the criminal enterprise was run by Mexican Mafia member Salvador Colabella. Colabella and his associates conspired to distribute methamphetamine and heroin, extorted and robbed others, and laundered drug-trafficking proceeds. Colabella and his associates collected the extortion payments through the threat of violence and the commission of violence. According to the indictment, the Mexican Mafia has about 200 members, but its reach extends to thousands of Hispanic street-gang members in Southern California. A Mexican Mafia member is the highest level one can attain in the Mexican Mafia. A member, also called “Brother” or “Carnal” or “Tio,” controls, exploits and profits from the criminal activity conducted by street-gang members and others. This control over the criminal activity is enforced through acts of violence or the threat of violence.
This year-long investigation, known as “Operation 12-Step,” was led by the East County Regional Gang Task Force, a group of federal and state law enforcement led by the FBI and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. Operation 12-Step focused on gang-related methamphetamine distribution activities in San Diego County. Today four indictments and eight complaints were unsealed charging 32 individuals with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. According to court records, individuals charged in this investigation belong to nine different criminal street gangs including Varrio Chula Vista, East Side Piru, Old Town National City, Shelltown, National City Locos, Imperial Beach Imperials, Paradise Hills, Varrio Encanto Locos and National City Block Boys. Between Feb. 22, 2011, and Dec. 13, 2011, law enforcement made more than 20 methamphetamine and heroin seizures in connection with this investigation. In addition, search warrants were executed at eight residences in San Diego; Spring Valley, Calif.; National City, Calif.; Imperial Beach, Calif.; and Chula Vista, Calif..
U.S. Attorney Duffy praised the coordinated effort of the law enforcement agencies of the Violent Crimes Task Force-Gang Group, the East County and North County Regional Gang Task Forces under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) for the coordinated team effort culminating in the charges filed in these cases. The OCDETF program was created to consolidate and utilize all law enforcement resources in this country’s battle against major drug trafficking.
The cases are being investigated by the FBI, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the National City, Calif., Police Department; the San Diego Police Department; the Escondido, Calif., Police Department; the Carlsbad, Calif., Police Department; the U.S. Marshals Service; the La Mesa, Calif., Police Department; the El Cajon, Calif., Police Department; the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office; the U.S. Bureau of Prisons; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the San Diego County Probation Department; Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations; and Customs and Border Protection-United States Border Patrol.
The cases are being prosecuted in San Diego federal court by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter Mazza, Jaime Parks, Fred Sheppard and Tara McGrath.