27 indicted in Mexican mafia crackdown
Charges include murder, drug trafficking
February 2, 1999
LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A grand jury has indicted 27 reputed members of the Mexican mafia on racketeering charges, including murder, conspiracy and drug trafficking, authorities said Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas made the announcement at a news conference in Los Angeles, saying the charges marked a second phase in the government's crackdown on the Mexican gang.
The grand jury returned three indictments charging members and associates with four murders, conspiracy to commit murder and drug trafficking. Officials said all but two of the 27 have been arrested.
Federal authorities used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO, to penetrate a web of criminal activity from drug distribution to murder, Mayorkas said.
Authorities believe the gang has increasingly worked to expand its influence and exert control over narcotics trafficking by recruiting and organizing Hispanic street gangs throughout Southern California.
"Back in the 1950s, we had organized crime dealing with the La Cosa Nostra in upstate New York," FBI spokesman Timothy McNally said. "It took better than 30 years of indictments of federal and state prosecutors across the country to put away really the hierarchy of most of the families.
"The Mexican mafia is one of our primary organized crime groups in the West Coast," McNally said. "They've been around for a long time, and we are in this for the long haul."
The Mexican mafia is believed to enforce its power by threatening and murdering street gang members and associates who violate its rules or pose a threat to the enterprise, according to the RICO indictment.
The indictments further allege the group requires street gangs and drug dealers to pay a tax on narcotics sales in exchange for protection. Failure to pay the tax results in assault or murder, Mayorkas said.
A third indictment announced Tuesday charges three defendants with narcotics trafficking but does not allege any direct connection to the Mexican mafia.
In 1997, a federal grand jury convicted 12 of 13 alleged leaders of the Mexican mafia, including its "Godfather," Benjamin Peters, McNally said.
Ten of the 12 defendants were sentenced to life in federal prison. The individual acquitted was later murdered, and his murder is charged in one of the indictments announced Tuesday.
Gangs in Los Angeles County
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