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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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.

Gang Task Forces Take Down Mexican Mafia 'Carnals'

Gang task forces concentrate on the RICO-type conspiracies headed by the Mexican Mafia and enforced by the local street gangs.

March 14, 2013  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

Mexican Mafia members and brothers Rafael "Cisco" Munoz-Gonzalez (left) and Caesar "Blanco" Munoz-Gonzales received life sentences for drug and weapon charges. Photos courtesy of DEA.
Mexican Mafia members and brothers Rafael "Cisco" Munoz-Gonzalez (left) and Caesar "Blanco" Munoz-Gonzales received life sentences for drug and weapon charges. Photos courtesy of DEA.

Two recent investigations show us the value of gang task forces that combine resources from law enforcement, prosecutors, and corrections to take down Mexican Mafia "carnals" in Southern California.

This is the kind of police work and prosecution that really makes a difference in besieged communities. It dismantles the unholy trinity, before it becomes institutionalized. It targets the Mexican drug cartels, their drug-distributing allies, and the American street gangs. It prevents the criminal and financial nexus with international terrorists. This is where our resources should be concentrated.

On the California side of the U.S.-Mexico border, the FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force-Gang Group (VCTF-GG) has become an effective task force in the fight against criminal gangs and their drug trafficking Mexican cartel suppliers. They are headquartered in San Diego and cover the border area, which includes Chula Vista and National City.

This is the most important operational area in California's war on drug smuggling and related violence. The team is headed by the FBI and staffed by members of various agencies, including officers from the San Diego Police Department, San Diego County Sheriff's Department, Chula Vista Police Department, and the National City Police Department. They enjoy a good working relationship. Recently, they've made valuable inroads in obtaining assistance from the Mexican government.

On Feb. 15, a Mexican Mafia associate and shot caller for San Diego's Logan Heights gang was sentenced to 14 years in prison for violent crimes in aid of racketeering, U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy announced. Robert Mercado was one of 36 individuals arrested this year as part of Operation Carnalismo. "Carnal" is Spanish for brother but is also the term used distinguish made members of the Mexican Mafia as opposed to street gang members or sureños with an ambition to reach that rank. Carnalismo was only one of three similar investigations that targeted Mexican Mafia criminal activity that resulted in over 100 arrests of local sureño gang members and associates.

Mercado operated enforcer crews under the leadership of Mexican Mafia member Salvador "Sal" Colabella. The Mexican Mafia prison gang controls the code of conduct and criminal activity of all the sureño street gangs in Southern California (and many in Northern California). The local street gangs are required to pay a portion of their criminal income to the Mexican Mafia. The extortion payments are referred to as "taxes." To maintain control over these street gangs, the mafia and its associates enforce the sureño code of conduct through assaults, kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, and murder. Some of these murders are racially-motivated hate crimes.

In his guilty plea, Mercado admitted to drug trafficking, extortion, the brutal stabbing of a drug dealer—he twisted the knife to maximize damage—and for failing to pay his proper taxes. When the errant drug dealer survived the stabbing, Mercado sent another crew member to the hospital to prevent the injured man from talking to the cops. Mercado and his associate then extorted the drug dealer by taking his car as a tax payment.

Further north in the San Gabriel Valley suburb of Los Angeles, another gang task force disrupted another Mexican Mafia-run criminal organization. In March, bothers Rafael "Cisco" Munoz-Gonzales, 42, and Caesar "Blanco" Munoz-Gonzales, 38, were given life sentences in U.S. District Court for convictions under the RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations) Act, and for weapons possession and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Before becoming members of the Mexican Mafia, the brothers were members of the La Puente 13 street gang. Puente 13 is an old-school gang that originated in the San Gabriel Valley at least 60 years ago. "La Puente" is Spanish for "The Bridge" and the gang was known as the "Bridgetown Gentlemen" in those days. Today the Puente 13 gang has over a dozen cliques or subgroups, all of them loyal sureños.

During this investigation, Munoz-Gonzales ordered his sureño minions to attack a witness who had been convinced by federal authorities to cooperate in the investigation. The attempted hit went down at the Metropolitan Federal Detention Center in Los Angeles where the victim was stabbed 22 times and beaten severely. The cooperating witness survived despite a punctured lung and skull fracture.

The task force prevented further gang violence by arresting members of the Munoz-Gonzales organization before a rival Mexican Mafia faction headed by Jacques "Jocko" Padilla could launch his vendetta against the brothers for muscling into an area claimed by Jocko's crew.

These gang task forces should keep the U.S. Attorney's Office busy for a long time. They could develop scores of similar cases just by concentrating on the RICO-type conspiracies headed by the Mexican Mafia and enforced by the local street gangs. They have a successful formula. If you add to this formula the prosecution of hate crimes and human trafficking, you would have a WMD to use against these organizations. 

Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

jon @ 3/20/2013 4:43 AM

Maybe Feinstein should push for a Knife Control bill next to reduce & prevent any future gang stabbings...NOT !!!

Rick @ 3/20/2013 8:38 AM

Disrupted, but they haven't stopped the gang. The ties between gangs and organized crime has been growing in the last several decades and is now thoroughly established. This is a threat to national security and the average citizens safety. The crooks in CA know that most citizens are unarmed, so they attack anyone they want. To make things safer, the liberals outlawed the open carry of UNLOADED firearms by the average citizen. Crime is going up in CA; knifepoint robberies for gold jewelry is on the rise especially and average citizens are forbidden to carry concealed firearms to defend themselves.

Robert @ 3/24/2013 7:24 AM

What is the use of such effforts if the gate is left wide open for continued replacements! Its akin to pumping out a flooded basement without fixing the broken water main!

joe @ 3/25/2013 3:46 AM


What gate are you talking about?

richard valdemar @ 3/27/2013 10:48 AM

Joe, Robert is talking about recidivism. He is talking about how the CDCR penal institutions have become gang training schools rather than any place of punishment or rehabilitation. He is talking about California's "Realignment" policies, releasing these prison gang thugs back into the community.

Joe @ 3/27/2013 4:36 PM


That's why I asked him to clarify. It almost sounds like he's talking about the border.

As far as your position, that the recidivism rate is what's fueling the problem, I disagree. I'm not saying that I have the solution, but I think that the situation is a definite quagmire. If we cure the recidivism problem by building more prisons, and giving out longer and harsher sentences, then you actually give the Mexican Mafia and other prison gangs more power, by increasing the number of people under their control. It's the law of unintended consequences. Just like the idea of transfering most of the validated to the new Pelican Bay SHU, actually resulted in making these guys untouchable in the prison world, and legends on the street. I think that I read something where Rene was also speaking about this to some degree. Would love to hear your opinion.

Also, quick question. I've read a lot of your writings, and it seems like you always drop the letter "e" from the word "carnales". I know that it would be impossible for you to not know the correct spelling, so just wondering if that's an inside joke or something?

Keep up the good work.


Anthony Manzella @ 3/30/2013 5:10 PM

After watching and listening to video and audio surveillance for many hours, I think I can answer for Richard Valdemar. The reason he drops the "e" in "carnales" is because the gangsters do it. They don't say "car-nal-es", they say "car-nals".

Joe @ 4/1/2013 11:48 PM

Anthony Manzella,

I was more hoping that Richard would have responded to the discusssion and comments that I made in reaction to his comments about recidivism, and my observation that the overall proliferation of the Mexican Mafia and other prison gangs over the years definitely coincides, and to some extent seems to be a direct result of locking more people up, because it strengthens their power base. I know it's a hard pill to swallow, because it basically means that all of your hard work to arrest, make cases, and prosecute them, has actually made the gangs stronger. For example, who ever had the bright idea to start using the RICO Statute, and spreading these guys to federal prisons all around the country, can thank himself for helping them to make connections and set up networks all throughout the U.S.. It's the law of unintended consequences.

As far as the case of the missing "e", I'm not buying that explanation. Is he really saying that, or are you just guessing?

RichardD @ 8/18/2013 9:28 PM

Hello Joe. Give the guy a break. So he made a mistake in his Spanish slang. I'm sure now he'll correct it. The feds pretty much screwed this one up years ago by shotgunning known EME members throughout their system. By doing so, they weee allowed to establish important prison ties, solidify their Sureno power base, and accomplish what they do best: control prison yards. As time went by and who knows how many homicides later, the Feds decided to finally separate these guys from the GP (general population) but now the Sureno power base remains to do the EME's bidding. As you suggest, this becomes a double-edged sword as the EME adapts to their prison environment.

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