Federal prosecutors announced a sweeping racketeering case Wednesday aimed at dismantling the leadership of the Mexican Mafia that controlled street gangs in part of southern California. The indictment unsealed in US District Court against three members of the group and 28 associates includes allegations of two murders, six attempted killings, extortion, and drug trafficking in Orange County, the AP reports. Prosecutors said the case would not eradicate the organization, which mainly operates from behind bars to call shots on crimes in prison and on the streets.
But the prosecution would disrupt the leadership that arose when the longtime kingpin who controlled gang activity in Orange County for decades was convicted of racketeering in 2016. "The message that this case sends is that if you rise to power in that vacuum, we will come for you," US Attorney Tracy Wilkison said. "No gang member is beyond our reach.” Twenty-one of those charged were already in custody and nine others were arrested in the past two days. One is still a fugitive. The Mexican Mafia, which was started in the 1950s at a juvenile jail and now controls smuggling, drug sales, and extortion inside California’s penal system, is made up of leaders of different street gangs.
Leaders direct associates to collect "taxes" on drugs proceeds and order hits on enemies or people who betray them or violate their rules. The indictment describes a series of crimes carried out as part of a racketeering conspiracy that range from shaking people down for money or dealing drugs to murders plotted for showing disrespect or violating orders. Brian Gilhooly of the FBI said that one of the goals of bringing the case is to lock up leaders in federal prisons farther from their home turf, where it's harder to smuggle contraband. "We are going to make sure that these individuals get lengthy sentences, and get sent to other prisons throughout the country," Gilhooly said. (Read more Mexican Mafia stories.)