General Crime

Samuel Tewolde, Santa Rosa Gang Fugitive Arrested, Accused of Racketeering, Attempted Murder

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The last of eight alleged members and associates of a Norteno gang in Santa Rosa who face federal charges has been arrested, the FBI announced in San Francisco today. Samuel Tewolde, 30, of Santa Rosa, was arrested by Berkeley police on Sunday, FBI spokesman Peter Lee said. Tewolde pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Maria-Elena James in San Francisco today to five counts, including conspiracy to engage in racketeering and attempted murder in aid of racketeering. James ordered him held in custody for the time being.

He is due to return to court March 25 for a status conference before U.S. District Judge William Alsup, the trial judge assigned to the case. In the attempted murder charge, Tewolde is accused in a federal grand jury indictment of firing several shots in a Santa Rosa parking lot on Sept. 5 at a person he believed to be a “snitch” against Tewolde’s alleged gang, the Varrio South Park gang. Santa Rosa police identified Tewolde as the suspect in the shooting later in September. Police said shots were fired at a car in the parking lot but no one was hurt. The 17-count indictment against a total of eight people was issued on Dec. 10.

Three defendants were arrested in Sonoma County that evening and four were already in custody on state charges, leaving Tewolde the sole fugitive in the case until this week. The indictment alleges the defendants are member or associates of the Varrio South Park gang, a Norteno gang that split off from the South Side Posse in Santa Rosa in the early 1990s. Nortenos groups are allegedly controlled by Nuestra Familia, a gang that originated in California state prisons in the 1960s and now operates both inside and outside prisons, according to the indictment.

Seven of the defendants, including Tewolde, are accused of conspiracy to engage in racketeering, or operating a continuing criminal enterprise that allegedly included drug dealing, extortion, robbery and attacks on perceived rivals and disloyal gang members. The seven also face charges of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering; conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering; and use of a gun in a crime of violence. Tewolde is accused of an additional count of attempted murder in connection with the alleged Sept. 5 shooting.

Other charges against other defendants include possessing and distributing methamphetamine and marijuana, robbery and illegal gun possession. Cesar Castellanos is accused of attempted murder in connection with an Oct. 9, 2012, shooting in which he allegedly wounded a fellow gang member who he believed had challenged his authority. David Martinez is alleged to have been the leader of the gang.

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