[UPDATED with 17 More Swept Up:] 26 Charged with Carrying Out Mexican Mafia Orders in OC Jail
The initial tip that snowballed into charges against 99 people involved Cesar "Roach" Munguia, 31, a high-ranking member of the Costa Mesa street gang Forming Kaos that is accused of dealing guns, methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin, according to authorities.
The Daily Pilot has the scoop.
Seventeen Forming Kaos members were among the 57 named in the federal indictments. One remains a fugitive. Four Costa Mesa locations were raided as part of the multi-agency operation.
At a news conference Wednesday, authorities reportedly displayed 45 seized weapons, photos of victims and suspects and a large outline of the Mexican Mafia's lines of communications between various branches behind bars and on the streets, including those in Orange County.
ORIGINAL POST, JULY 13, 4:35 P.M.: The Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) today charged 26 people with conspiring to commit murders and beat-downs in Orange County Jail at the behest of the Mexican Mafia.
The case represents the OC portion of "Operation Black Flag," a multi-agency investigation that has snared a total of 99 defendants, including 69 people named in 57 federal indictments.
The Orange County defendants are looking at bails of $80,000 to no bail, and maximum sentences of eight years to 58 years to life in state prison. Sentencing enhancements and previous felony strikes equal longer possible prison stretches.
The FBI, the Santa Ana Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives launched an investigation into the gang that controls Hispanic prisoners in Southern California jails and correctional facilities in October 2008.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department joined the probe in April 2009 for violations originating in the Orange County Jail. Other agencies involved in the investigation or prosecution of these cases include the California Department of Corrections Special Services Unit, U.S. Attorney's Office, who will prosecute the federal cases, and the OCDA, who will prosecute the state cases.
The investigation found that the Mexican Mafia not only calls the shots inside Orange County Jail, but it levies "taxes" street gangs must pay out of respect. Before April 2009, the prison gang was controlled in the Orange County Jail by Peter Ojeda, a 40-year Mexican Mafia member, according to the OCDA, which adds this changed that month when Armando Moreno, a higher-ranking prison gang member, was transported from state prison to the OC Jail.
When Moreno was headed back to state prison in July 2009, it was assumed Ojeda would resume control. But Moreno's supporters did not want to give up the reins of power, causing a violent split within the Mexican Mafia at Orange County Jail. It is supporters of Moreno who the OCDA accuses of carrying-out orders to assault and/or kill supporters of Ojeda.
"Defendants who commit crimes to glorify their gangs and continue to commit serious crimes behind bars are some of the most dangerous individuals in our society," District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says in a statement about the case. "The only place they belong is in prison and the Orange County District Attorney's office is committed to keeping them there for the rest of their lives."
"This operation is a prime example of what multi-agency task forces can accomplish to keep our communities safe," states Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters in the same release. "The collaboration in this case included local, state, and federal resources and will bring some dangerous individuals who were operating at a sophisticated level to justice."
The entire statement, which follows on the next page, goes into more detail about how orders were transmitted, how attacks were carried out, the level of violence that occurred, the cases against individual defendants, and how Mexican Mafia members interviewed on MSNBC's reality show Lockup Extended Stay were beaten for ignoring orders not to cooperate with the television production.