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Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

The Vineland Boys Gang

They split off from 18th Street; they ticked off the Mexican Mafia, and then they ran amok. The life story of one of California’s most deadly and unusual gangs.

August 21, 2007  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

Not all of the gangs in Los Angeles have followed the traditions of the long established street gang code of conduct. Breaking the rules seemed to be the thing to do in the mid 1980s when a few rebellious young boys—former members and associates of the 18th Street Gang—formed the Vineland Boys gang. They took the name Vineland Boys from their crew, which played football on Vineland Street in North Hollywood.

Among the early founding members of the Vineland Boys were Teddy "Green Eyes" Lopez and his brother Hilario Lopez. In January 1988, Teddy Lopez, then in the ninth grade and a group of 10 to 12 other neophyte Vineland Boys embarked upon their criminal voyage. The boys attempted a robbery that resulted in the murder of the victim, Carlos Cardoza, 26. More gang activities followed, and their criminal conduct led them in and out of Los Angeles juvenile facilities.

The powerful 18th Street Gang considered the formation of this new gang by its own members to be "set jumping" and have been at war with the Vineland Boys ever since. This betrayal of their 18th Street allegiance would prove fatal to some.

Without gang veteranos and the old school traditions to guide them, the Vineland Boys made many mistakes and often violated the "Sureno Reglas," the unwritten rules established by the Mexican Mafia prison gang, which govern all Southern California Hispanic street gangs. The gang was eventually "green lighted" by the Mexican Mafia, meaning that they became fair game and open season to all Surenos.

Ten years after forming the Vineland Boys, founder Teddy Lopez was attacked with knives and beer bottles at the Baby Doe's night club in Monterey Park. Other gang members at the nightclub had recognized him as marked for death on the hit list. Some of the suspects yelled "Surenos!" and "Pacoima!" as they murdered him.

Following the murder of "Green Eyes" and the violent deaths of other members, the Vineland Boys attempted to mend their relationship with the Mexican Mafia. Trying to make up for their past poor Sureno history, they became especially reckless in their gangbanging and have attempted to build an extremely violent reputation in order to establish themselves as hardcore gang members.

The Vineland formed alliances with the Armenian Power (AP) gang to obtain assault weapons, and have since specialized in the distribution of large quantities of methamphetamine.

In November 2003, Vineland members shot and murdered Burbank police officer Matthew Pavelka and wounded and paralyzed his partner, Greg Campbell. Gangbanger Ramon Aranda, 25, was killed during the shootout with the Burbank officers. Almost two weeks later, the remaining murderer, David Garcia, 19, was tracked down and arrested. Other gang members and their enabling families proved uncooperative; many were arrested for interfering, obstructing, harboring, and abetting in the case.

In June 2005, a task force comprising 1,300 officers and agents from six local police agencies, FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, and the Internal Revenue Service conducted Operation Silent Night aimed at dismantling the Vineland Boys gang. During the subsequent two years, over 35 members of the gang were convicted, including a life sentence for the gang's leader, Rafael Yepiz, 35. Follow-up cases also led to the conviction of a Burbank city councilwoman who was linked to the Vineland gang.

Like many other non-traditional street gangs, the Vineland Boys have been forced into complying with traditional gang conduct and regulations laid down by and enforced by the Mexican Mafia.

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