Results tagged “Mexican Mafia” from The Court Reporter

Chop Shop Prelim and the Mexican Mafia Case

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There were more defendants and defense lawyers in court than there were people in the audience this afternoon.

The six defendants involved in a chop shop operation being run at a residence in Santa Paula and their six lawyers were so packed near the defense table that two defendants and a defense attorney had to sit inside the jury box.

The six defendants are Joseph Banuelo Bracamontes, 41;Justin Tyler Steele, 25; David Martinez Jr., 25; Aaron Alexander Morua, 26; Ryan Anthony Ramos, 23; David Jesus Velazquez, 25, are accused of being involved in a chop shop located at the 400 block of Grant Line Street in an unicorporated area of Santa Paula.

Initially, some of the defense lawyers complained that they didn't have all the discovery from the District Attorney's Office, and prosecutor Anthony Sabo said he gave everybody what he had from the investigation.

Defense Attorney Bill Haney who is representing Morua, said the DA must give lawyers exculpatory evidence if they have it.

More bickering.

Attorney Donna Forry who is representing Bracamontes, said she was ready to proceed with the preliminary hearing.

Judge David Hirsch said he would allow defense lawyers to discuss among themselves whether they want to continue the preliminary hearing.

"The preliminary doesn't look like its ready to be held," said Hirsch.

The judge, who has the patience of Job, left the courtroom.

More discussions in court by the defense lawyers for about 10 minutes before they decided to go outside the courtroom for more talks.

Courtroom observer Mickey Schlein, who has been sitting in Ventura County's courtrooms for nearly 13 years, said this is a waste of the court's resources and time.

 "All of this should be resolved before they hold a preliminary hearing," the 85-year-old Schlein complains.

Ten minutes later, all the defense lawyers agree that the preliminary hearing can proceed.

The judge comes back on the bench and the preliminary hearing starts..

The first prosecution witness, Detective Christopher Martin, who is with the California Highway Patrol and was assigned to the Ventura County Auto Theft Task Force, was hammered by defense attorneys with objections.

Some of the objections come in two and threes and others in unison: hearsay, lack of foundation, lack of personal knowledge so on and so forth.

Martin, who has a shaved head, beard and an earring, isn't rattled.

Soon it was raining objections with the judge swatting down some, sustaining others or telling prosecutor Anthony Sabo to fine tune his questions.

Then, it got slow.

After 15 minutes of Martin testifying about the make and model of each car that was brought into the chop shop along with giving precise details on how he found out the vehicle had been stolen, the court proceeding got very slow.

A well-behaved little girl about eight years old who is the daughter of one of the defendants curled up on a second-row seat and fell asleep next to her mother.

Across the aisle and about 10 minutes into Martin's testimony, Mr. Schlein, whose quick mind and memory are incredible and who sometimes drives like a bat out of hell, is also asleep.  

Twenty minutes later, both the girl and Mr. Schlein are awake.

The judge has the defense objections down to a drizzle when Martin shifts into his testimony on the fifth or sixth car.

It is late in the afternoon, Mr. Schlein calls it a day and leaves.

A few minutes later, the judge, who goes on vacation on Friday, mercifully announces a short court break.

I head down to Courtroom 12 where all the lawyers of the 16 defendants named in the Mexican Mafia conspiracy indictment handed down in November converge along with prosecutor Joann Roth.

More legal housekeeping and more discovery is handed over.

One by one, the defense lawyers and their clients take turns going going before Judge Kevin McGee.

Defense lawyer Jay Leiderman, who is representing Edwin Mora who has been described as the shot caller in Ventura County, stated attorneys have received 8,000 pages of discovery along with 20 to 25 CDs and DVDs so far.

"You know they aren't paying us? Apparently the county was not told to budget for a big case," he texted. "I've been paid $874 since November. And that was just a few weeks ago that I finally got the check."

"Have you cashed the check? :)" I texted back.


Stay tuned.


Texas Mexican Mafia Member Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Possessing Methamphetamine

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SAN ANGELO, TEXAS --Eric Cortez Flores, 32, a ranking member of the Mexican Mafia, was sentenced today to 30 years in prison for possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute, according to federal prosecutors.

Flores' mother's residence in San Angelo reportedly served as a stash house for Flores' methamphetamine, federal prosecutors stated.

Flores was the Mexican Mafia's methamphetamine supplier from Lubbock to San Angelo, Texas, federal authorities stated.

Flores distributed about a pound of methamphetamine every two weeks.

On February 22, 2012, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Flores's residence and found a plastic bag containing suspected methamphetamine residue, which was located next to the toilet; methamphetamine residue next to the toilet; approximately $96,000 in cash; a semi-automatic pistol; approximately 25 wrappings similar to those typically used to package large amounts of methamphetamine; and a suspected drug ledger, federal officials stated.

Flores stated that his methamphetamine was from Mexico, but he refused to provide his supplier's name.

Mexican Mafia Member Sent to Prison for Life for Racketeering

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LOS ANGELES - A member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang and leader of the Puente-13 criminal street gang was sentenced to life in prison today, the U.S. Attorney's Office stated.

Rafael "Cisco" Munoz-Gonzalez, 43, of La Puente, was convicted last year of federal racketeering charges that included a brutal stabbing designed to deter victims from cooperating with law enforcement and plotting to murder members of a rival gang, according to federal officials.

Munoz-Gonzalez's brother,  Caesar, 38, of Rowland Heights was sentenced late yesterday to life in prison.

There is no parole in the federal prison system, according to authorities.

Rafael Munoz-Gonzalez ordered an attack on a witness who was cooperating with federal investigators in this case. The man was attacked at the federal jail in downtown Los Angeles where he was stabbed 22 times and beat over the head, suffering a punctured lung and fractured skull, state federal prosecutors.

Rafael Munoz-Gonzalez was in custody, his brother Cesar whose nickname is "Blanco," trafficked large amounts of methamphetamine with other gang members, spoke on his brother's behalf, directed other members of Puente-13 to collect a so-called "tax" payments from area drug dealers on Rafael's behalf and warded off rival drug traffickers by announcing that certain Puente-13 drug stash houses were untouchable because they were "protected by Cisco," officials stated.

The brothers trafficking brought them substantial amounts of cash, custom boats and luxury cars, officials stated.


Federal Indictment Targets South L.A. Gangs Controlled by a Mexican Mafia Member

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LOS ANGELES  --  Law enforcement officials this morning arrested 18 defendants named in three federal indictments stemming from an investigation into South Los Angeles street gangs that took more than two years.

The gangs were allegedly controlled by an imprisoned Mexican Mafia member who ran criminal activities through his daughter, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The investigation focused on the activities of the Harpys street gang, which claim a territory southwest of downtown Los Angeles and north of the University of Southern California, federal officials stated.

Mexican Mafia member Danny Roman allegedly controlled the Harpys, which is known as the Harpys-Dead End gang,  along with a dozen other Hispanic gangs of South Los Angeles, federal officials stated.

Roman gave his daughter and son-in-law orders to tell gang members to engage in criminal conduct including collecting "taxes" from businesses and gangs that are sent back to Roman in state prison, according to federal authorities.

The gang enforces the collection of "taxes" through threats of violence, including murder, for any business or gang that fails to pay or reports the collection of taxes to police.

In addition, Roman and the Harpys gang were allegedly involved in the distribution of methamphetamine cocaine, cocaine and crack cocaine and heroin, the murder of a gang member who owed a debt to another gang member, say federal officials.

The indictment accuses Roman of orchestrating the extortion of vendors at the Alameda Swap Meet, which has been a central location for criminal activity by gang members of the 38th Street gang who are also under Roman's control, federal authorities allege.

During the course of the investigation tabbed Operation Roman Empire, federal officials stated that investigators seized about eight and a half pounds of methamphetamine, a half-pound of heroin, a pound of cocaine, 23 pounds of marijuana and 22 guns.

Also 10 children were removed from several residences by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services' Multi-Agency Response Team, according to federal authorities.


The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at