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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.

The Mexican Mafia: Down But Not Out

Law enforcement has landed several blows against the Eme prison gang.

August 13, 2013  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

Photo via World Series Boxing/Flickr.
Photo via World Series Boxing/Flickr.
This month was a bad one for the always resilient contender—the Mexican Mafia prison gang. The Eme organization took a couple of hard shots in its cage fight with law enforcement. It was a fist in the gut delivered in San Bernardino civil court followed by a well placed kick to the head delivered by a Los Angeles-based Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives task force. The Mexican Mafia has taken a knock-down eight count, but don't count them technically knocked out of the fight.

There have been numerous preliminary bouts with the Eme going back to the 1970s. The original Los Angeles Prison Gang Task Force cases are well documented in books such as "The Mexican Mafia: The Story" by task force member Robert "Moco" Morrill, "Mexican Mafia: The Gang of Gangs" by Eme member Ramon "Mundo" Mendoza, and "La Familia: The Family, Prison Gangs in America" by gang cop Gabriel Morales.  

My experience in the "ring" (court cases) with the Mexican Mafia included federal RICO cases in 1995, 1997, and 1999. Independent of these federal cases, they included numerous capital murder and conspiracy cases in state courts and before the grand jury. You can read about some of these in books like "The Mexican Mafia" by Tony Rafael and "The Black Hand" by Chris Blatchford.

Every time law enforcement thought that they had knocked out or retired the Eme organization, they found that the Eme came back again. The Mexican Mafia absorbed the blows and grew stronger. There's a term boxers use to describe this resilience and tenacity; they call such an opponent "scrap iron." You can wear yourself out by pounding on this pile of scrap iron.

In a more recent match in 2008, a DEA task force of federal and local San Bernardino agencies targeted Mexican Mafia members and associates infiltrating the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and their casino in Highland, Calif. When members of the tribe conspired with Mexican Mafia member Salvador "Toro" Hernandez and his brother Alfred Hernandez to kill nightclub manager Leonard Epps, the DEA task force intervened and faked Epps' death. In December, they executed 43 search warrants, made 19 arrests and seized 56 guns and over $1 million in methamphetamine.   

The Hernandez brothers and tribe members Stacy and Erik Barajas pled guilty to the conspiracy to commit murder and made gang admissions as well. This blow was followed by an unexpected one. The intended victim Leonard Epps filed a suit against the conspirators.

The San Bernardino Sun ran the headline, "San Bernardino man marked for death by San Manuel tribal members to get $4.5 million." The article goes on to say that the second phase of the trial will begin Aug. 26, when jurors will deliberate on how much more to award Epps in punitive damages.

Not only has the Eme suffered law enforcement exposure and arrest of their big homies and members of their Sureno army, but the resulting law enforcement financial probe into their corrupting influence is threatening their newfound cash cow of Native-American gaming. To their surprise, the intended murder victim used the law to fight back. I don't think there's ever before been an Eme "green lighted" individual who had the nerve to sue them. An award of several million dollars can buy the threatened party a lot of security. It also opens up the members of the criminal organization financially. This blow hits them where it hurts worse—in the wallet.        

The Los Angeles Times ran the headline, "Feds indict dozens in alleged Mexican Mafia, drug cartel scheme." The article documents a major blow to the Eme by a Los Angeles ATF task force in cooperation with California law enforcement across the state. The take-down targeted dozens of street gang members, including 13 members linked to the Mexican Mafia and associated La Familia Cartel members.

The seven count federal indictment outlines "The Project," a venture by the Mexican Mafia utilizing loyal street gang members to provide La Familia members "free rein" to distribute methamphetamine and to provide the La Familia members with protection in and out of jail and prison custody. Many of the street gang members were hardcore members of the Florence 13 gang from South Central Los Angeles. More than 600 pounds of methamphetamine were seized during the investigation.

Some of the arrests occurred in San Bernardino County but the arrests reached up as far as Fresno where Mexican Mafia veterans Michael "Boo Boo" Moreno and Jimmy "Rube" Soto were arrested in residences in Visalia. Lt. Mark Salazar, chief of the Fresno Police Department's Street Violence Bureau, told the Fresno Bee that the Mexican Mafia has increased its presence in Fresno in recent months. In 2013, there were 17 Sureño gang shootings in the city compared with 10 last year. Salazar called the Sureños the Mexican Mafia's "minor league."

Former Mexican Mafia member "Mundo" Mendoza commented to me on this Mexican drug alliance. "The Eme's relationship with Mexican drug families is almost as old as the Eme itself," he said. "Beginning in 1969, Eme member Alejandro "Hondo" Lechuga established a pipeline from his hideout in Juarez, Mexico, to the Hawaiian Gardens section of Los Angeles. Jesus "Chuy" Araujo was another major Mexican drug lord who worked with us in the mid-1970s, and his family was taken down by DEA. In varying degrees since then, we have seen the Eme work with the Felix-Arellano Cartel and pretty much whichever cartel is good for Eme business."

Mundo offered the following advice to law enforcement "My current advice (which is echoed by Rene "Boxer" Enriquez in "The Mexican Mafia Encyclopedia") is for the Bureau of Prisons (and any state facilities where Eme and cartel members are housed) to separate these two groups before solid relationships can be established and nurtured. Mexican cartels would also be wise to shun too close a relationship with Eme because the Mexican Mafia would ultimately seek to control it all."

My advice to law enforcement is that it needs to press the attack on the Mexican Mafia while the organization is still stunned and against the ropes. There is also a need to tag-team with Mexican law enforcement and Interpol to share intelligence and coordinate our blows against the growing alliances. Just because the Mexican Mafia may have taken a good combination or two and maybe a fall, don't count them out. 

Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

RichardD @ 8/16/2013 9:31 AM

Reads to me like the REAL story about this cartel-EME development is what we do NOT know. The headline story makes it appear as though these takedowns prevented these groups from going forward with their drug scheme. Are we really supposed to believe (from what the joint press conference seemed to imply) that no other EME, cartel of Florencia 13 member can step forward to implement their proposed plan?? Call me naive but I have a feeling there will be more to come regarding this story.

robert michael salazar @ 8/20/2013 11:10 AM

mundo and rene boxer enriquez you both disgust me both of you are trash and coward traitors how does it feel not being able to look at yourself in the mirror with any pride do you feel ashamed to look at yourself in the mirror and see the rat staring back at you! you both are living your life like rat cowards hiding in the dark! hope you have a very miserable very short life left!

Richard Valdemar @ 8/27/2013 3:19 PM

Whats up with you Robert? You still living in the gang world? The Mexican Mafia is an Evil Exploiter and murderer of people, especially Latinos and anyone who comes over to the Good Guy's side is a welcomed comrade against this gang! God Bless Mundo and Rene!

Henry "Bud" Johnson @ 8/29/2013 8:37 AM

Excellent article. Thanks Richard Valdemar. I read many of your articles and look forward when you publish articles about gangs.
I had the pleasure of sitting in one of your lectures, which was held in the city of Torrance. I recommended to the younger officers that they should read your works, or listen to a lecture (Do you still give lectures).
I retired in 2011, after serving with two police departments in the Los Angeles area. I still look forward to your articles.
Thanks again.

Joe @ 8/31/2013 1:47 AM

Richard Valdemar,

That stuff that Robert wrote, is just a bunch of simple insults, but I would bet that most people in society agree with his position. Most people just don't like rats, especially the turncoat variety. From everything I've ever read, cops don't even like rats within their ranks who report police abuses. Were you a rat when you worked for LASD, or did you adhere to the code of silence? The point being that if you are saying that rats are so wonderful, then should have been one yourself. You certainly worked during an era of well documented, extreme abuses committed by the LASD.

The other thing is that I don't buy the premise that the government is the "Good Guys" side. Do you really believe that? I know that you're 100% cop and all that, but you say you're from Compton, so don't you have at least a little tiny bit of street smarts? Can't you spot a scam when you see one? The drug war is a scam, and without it you eliminate the cartels and the eme.

stevenA @ 9/4/2013 6:08 AM

Looks like we're dealing with lots of semantics here. I welcome anyone who comes forward from the Dark Side (aka: law breaking) and assists the Good Guys (the LE community). I don't think Richard, or any other cop, is suggesting that anyone be nominated for sainthood. But those of us who are inclined to learn from "scum" like Mundo & Rene (as described above), should worry less about sitting as judge & jury and concentrate more on how to effectively apply what we continue to learn from former bad guys.

Boom Boom @ 9/16/2013 12:24 PM

You can only expect these guys to go so far. The Feds have a lock on these organizations. They have been trained by the Cosa Nostra, at one time the biggest criminal organization and no other organization will be as successful.
Even the Russians and the Chinese have been marginalized in recent years.
When La Raza takes over the southwest politically and legally, then I might change my opinion.

stevenA @ 9/18/2013 10:34 AM

Boom Boom, I don't think the level of sophisticated crime is what we in the LE community are necessarily as concerned with. It's more the proliferation of this cancer and that's the relationship between gangs like La EME and their constituents (Surenos). I don't think the families of victims really care how profitable (as in the Cosa Nostra) or sophisticated these bad guys are as the corpses they leave behind. By doing the ostich thing and pretending that major problems do not exist doesn't make them magically disappear.

Boom Boom @ 9/19/2013 7:08 AM

I understand your point. I am just saying this is nothing new. Only the faces have changed. The problem I see with La Eme is they have a never ending
recruiting ground. They have thousands of gang members at their disposal,
and they are spreading, and Mexico is one of our neighbors. Unless it's all hype, which I don't think it is, I think the justice department needs to keep
up a full court press to marginalize the situation.
Peace Out.

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