LOS ANGELES – Authorities have arrested 11 members and associates of the South Los Angeles-based Florencia-13 (F13) street gang on federal racketeering, narcotics and firearms charges. One of the indictments unsealed today alleges that defendants linked to the gang trafficked methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and other drugs in their territory and attempted to smuggle narcotics into the state prison system.
Those arrested today are among 36 members and associates of the F13 gang named in six federal grand jury indictments. One of the indictments alleges that the gang is a criminal enterprise as defined by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Twenty-six members and associates of the gang allegedly conspired to violate RICO and engaged in drug trafficking, illegal gambling, attempted murder and assault. The RICO indictment also alleges that the gang actively attempted to smuggle narcotics into the California state prison and Los Angeles County jail systems, including attempting to mail two shipments totaling 100 grams of heroin to an imprisoned Mexican Mafia member.
The lead defendant in RICO indictment – Leonel Laredo, a.k.a. “Wizard,” 47, who is currently incarcerated at a federal prison in Beaumont, Texas – allegedly directed F13's operations in the unincorporated Florence-Firestone neighborhood of South Los Angeles, as well as parts of Lynwood, Maywood, Bell and other nearby communities. Laredo, who is serving a sentence for prior racketeering and drug convictions related to his F13 activities, is one of four members of the Mexican Mafia prison gang who allegedly had leadership roles in the gang. The indictment alleges that Laredo ran the street gang from prison with a goal of enriching himself, family members and associates through extortionate “taxes” taken from drug dealers and businesses in F13's territory.
The RICO indictment also alleges that F13 members were responsible for the shooting and attempted murder of a rival gang member in South Los Angeles in December 2016. In April 2017, one defendant, Samuel Flores Mejia, a.k.a. “Menace,” shot and wounded a fellow F13 member to discipline him at one of the gang's “casitas,” or illegal gambling houses.
A second indictment unsealed today alleges that five F13 members and associates, working out of a South Los Angeles hookah lounge, participated in a scheme to distribute methamphetamine. A third indictment charges two F13 members with being felons in possession of a firearm and ammunition, namely an AK-47-type rifle. The remaining three indictments charge three individual F13 members and associates with distributing of methamphetamine.
Out of the 36 defendants named in the six indictments, 11 were arrested today, 16 were already in custody, and authorities are searching for nine fugitives.
The defendants taken into custody this morning are scheduled to make their initial court appearance this afternoon in United States District Court.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.