ORANGE, Calif. (AP) — 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 U.S. 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 Mexican Mafia allegedly preyed on vulnerable communities through fear, violence, and intimidation,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. said.
Twenty-one of those charged were already in custody and nine others were arrested in the past two days. One remained a fugitive.
The 106-page indictment charges members of the group with conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, committing violent crimes to aid racketeering, conspiring to traffic drugs, dealing methamphetamine and heroin, and firearms charges.
The Mexican Mafia is made up of the leaders of different street gangs and is largely run from inside California prisons and jails. Leaders direct associates to collect “taxes” on drugs proceeds and order hits on enemies or people who violate their rules.
For decades, Peter Ojeda was the head of the Mexican Mafia in Orange County, calling shots from inside prison. After his death in 2018, at least three men filled the leadership void, prosecutors said.
The Mexican Mafia started in the 1950s at a juvenile jail and grew to an international criminal organization that has controlled smuggling, drug sales and extortion inside California's jail system, which is the largest in the U.S.