Kouri: Mexican Mafia: New Crime Syndicate in California
By Jim Kouri, CPP
An anti-gang task force arrested 15 defendants charged in a federal racketeering indictment with exercising control over Hispanic street gangs across Orange County, CA. The indictment alleges that members of the Ojeda Organization - named after leader and Mexican Mafia member Peter Ojeda - extorted "taxes" from street gangs and punished non-payers with assaults. In addition to the arrests made by well over 100 agents and officers associated with the Santa Ana Gang Task Force, ten defendants are already in state custody.
The three-count indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana, asserts that the Ojeda Organization engaged in extortion and assault, as well as assisting in the distribution of narcotics throughout Orange County. Controlled by Peter Ojeda, the organization included high-ranking members of several Hispanic street gangs, which helped the organization exert its influence "from the streets of Orange County into the Orange County jail system and the California correctional system," according to the indictment.
A coordinated effort between local, state and federal authorities has taken down one of the most powerful gangsters in Orange County, according to United States Attorney Debra Wong Yang.
This case demonstrates the success in combating gang violence made possible when law enforcement at all levels share intelligence and combine resources. It also displays the amount of sophistication with which these new organized crime groups operate.
Santa Ana Police Chief Paul M. Walters said, "The arrest of these dangerous and violent criminals who have engaged in an on-going pattern of organized crime will have a significant impact on narcotic and gang activity throughout Orange County."
The indictment alleges that 16 of the defendants participated in a conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly called RICO. The RICO charge alleges dozens of overt acts that members of the organization committed to expand the power and control of the enterprise. Detailing conduct in 2004 and early 2005, the RICO count accuses Peter Ojeda and others of, for example, demanding taxes from numerous street gangs and others who wanted to distribute drugs in Orange County, coordinating the collection of taxes from jail inmates who were selling drugs, and ordering assaults for failing to pay taxes or for showing disrespect to the Ojeda Organization. Assaults were conducted when a "green light" was placed on the offending gang or gang member, meaning the gang or gang member would be assaulted by members of the Ojeda Organization or those doing its bidding.
The Ojeda Organization required Hispanic criminal street gangs in Orange County to pay money as a "tax" or "tribute" on a regular basis, the indictment alleges. The Ojeda Organization permitted the tax-paying gangs and gang members to exert influence over their neighborhoods and territories. The Ojeda Organization disciplined Orange County criminal street gangs and their members who engaged in unsanctioned violence, such as a drive-by shooting, which could cause increased law enforcement attention and thereby threaten the income of the Ojeda Organization.
Sources: Santa Ana, CA Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Attorney's Office, California Highway Patrol, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, National Association of Chiefs of Police, American Federation of Police
~ About the Author ~
Jim Kouri is a certified protection professional, writer, commentator and contributing editor for Chief of Police Magazine. A former chief at a housing project in New York City's Washington Heights district - dubbed Crack City - he serves as Fifth-Vice President of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He possesses over 25 years of law enforcement and security experience and writes a regular column for KingNewsMedia.Com. He's the author of Crime Talk: Conversations with America's Top Crimefighters and Assume The Position: Police Science for Novelists, Screenwriters and Journalists, and his magazine articles appear in many publications. He's a frequent guest on many TV and radio stations including Fox News, CNN, CBS, ABC, CNBC, and others.
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