The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Jose Wednesday unsealed a 41-count indictment against 27 members of the San Jose-based “Mexican Mafia” street gang the Sur Santos Pride on racketeering, murder, drug dealing, firearms and other charges. In the indictment, federal prosecutors allege that the members and associates of the Sur Santos Pride conspired with other Sureno, or “Southerner” gangs in San Jose to engage in criminal activity and avoid detection by law enforcement since at least 2009, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.
The indictment was unsealed Wednesday morning in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, according to Haag. Two of the 27 defendants, including Roberto “Espantos” Martinez, 32, are charged with murder for allegedly stabbing a member of the rival Norteno, or “Northerner,” gang in San Jose to death on Oct. 23, 2011, to further Sur Santos Pride’s criminal activity, prosecutors said. Martinez could be sentenced to life in prison and perhaps receive the death penalty and the other defendants, if found guilty of racketeering and conspiring to enhance their gang’s criminal enterprise, could receive life sentences, according to Haag. The charges against the defendants came down following a lengthy investigation by the FBI’s Santa Clara County Violent Crime Task Force that was assisted by 10 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, according to prosecutors.
The indictment, which supercedes a previous set of charges against the Sur Santos Pride, includes many drug trafficking and firearms offenses committed by the gang’s members or associates from August 2010 up to January of this year. According to Haag and FBI Special Agent in Charge David Johnson, the Sur Santos Pride, also known as Santos Pride and Santeros, is overseen by the Mexican Mafia, described as “the dominant Hispanic prison gang in Southern California.” A major goal of the Mexican Mafia “is to control and profit from drug trafficking,” prosecutors stated in the indictment. “The Mexican Mafia is a powerful gang that controls drug distribution and other illegal activities within portions of both the California and Federal penal systems, and which has increasingly worked to expand its influence over illegal activities outside of those prison systems,” prosecutors stated.
In San Jose, prosecutors said that Sur Santos Pride had been working with other local Sureno-associated gangs such as the Varrio Sur Town, East Side Clanton, Vario Paisanos Locos and Surenos Por Vida. “San Jose-based Sureno gangs identified themselves as ‘Surenos,’ a term that generally encompasses gang members who were born outside the United States, who claim Southern California as their base, and who acknowledge the primacy of the Mexican Mafia prison gang,” according to prosecutors. The Sur Santos Pride, whose leaders were known as “Big Homies” and “shot callers,” were required to commit acts of violence against rival Norteno gang members or members of their own gang who violated gang rules, prosecutors stated.
Norteno gang members in San Jose and elsewhere generally include those born in the United States, who claim Northern California as their territory and who recognize “the primacy of the Nuestra Familia prison gang,” according to Haag. San Jose’s Sur Santos Pride engaged in murder, attempted murder, drug distribution, assault, robbery, extortion and intimidation of witnesses to prevent them from dealing with law enforcement, prosecutors alleged. The first criminal act by the gang cited in the indictment was on April 9, 2009, when member Ricardo “Necio” Montoya, 23, and others stabbed and tried to murder a suspected Norteno member. Montoya, Jorge “Brownie” Rodriguez, 24, Oscar Martinez “Cuete” De La Cruz, 27 and others attempted to kill a fellow Sur Santos Pride member inside the Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas on Dec. 19, 2009, prosecutors said.
The latest offenses occurred this past Jan. 30, when Jesus Manuel “Chumel” Armendariz, 22, had 954 grams of methamphetamine with the intent to sell and possessed six high-caliber firearms. Also that day, a loaded .25 caliber gun was found at the San Jose home, at 890 S. Almaden Ave., of gang member Jorge Luis “Chivo” Olivera, 20.
Members of the gang met in San Jose on a regular basis, obtained and sold methamphetamine and sent the proceeds to their “Big Homies” mafia leaders in prison in the United States or Mexico, according to prosecutors. They also bought firearms to use during criminal acts, “taxed” pimps who ran prostitutes and collected money from fellow gang members to pay the “homies,” according to the indictment.
Those charged with one or more felony crimes in the indictment, along with Martinez, Montoya, Rodriguez, De La Cruz, Armendariz and Olivera, include, Miguel “Payaso” Mirada, 27; Gilberto “Snowman” Villela, 32; Jesse “Munchies” Aguilar, 31; Francisco “Griffo” Fonseca, 28; Jorge “Sleepy” Cisneros, 28; Daniel “Little Temper” Cortez, 21; Jose David “Joker” Sanchez, 32; Miguel “Tweety” Vasquez, 29; Juan “Dukester” Chavez, 29; Marcos Salvador “Cookie” Lomeli, 27; Jesse “Little Looney” Parra, 31; Andy Lamb “Solo” Lopez, 36; Jose Angel “Lil Chocolate” Moreno, 30; and Fernando “Nano” Cruz, 23. Others indicted include Alfredo “Junior” Maldonado, 35; Felix Hernandez “Pato” Cristobal, 22; Mario “Lil Junior” Guerrero, 22; Benito “Dopey” Canales, 32; Rafael Mariscal “Bad Boy” Camberos, 23; Mario “Trusty” Cardenas, 20; and Denis “Criminal” Sandoval, 20.
Law enforcement agencies that participated in the FBI’s task force included the San Jose, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara police departments, the Santa Clara County’s Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
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