SANTA ANA, California– A longtime member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang who exerted control over Latino street gangs in Orange County for 30 years was convicted today of federal racketeering offenses, with a jury finding that he ordered murders and assaults while incarcerated in federal prison for a prior racketeering conviction.
Peter Ojeda, 73, who has been in federal custody since he was indicted in a prior racketeering case in 2005, was found guilty of two counts: conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and conspiracy to commit violent crimes in aid of racketeering.
Ojeda, who is also known as “Sana” and “The Big Homie,” was one of 99 defendants charged in 2011 in relation to Operation “Black Flag,” an investigation conducted by the Santa Ana Gang Task Force (see:http://go.usa.gov/cQTMm).
The jury, which began hearing evidence about two months ago in United States District Court, found that both conspiracies involved plots to murder other gangsters as part of a turf war with a rival Mexican Mafia member who attempted to assert control over local street gangs after Ojeda was imprisoned in his prior case.
In relation to the RICO conspiracy, the jury found that Ojeda was involved in the operation and management of the Mexican Mafia's activities in Orange County, which included conspiring to commit murder, narcotics trafficking and extortion. Ojeda ordered Latino street gangs in Orange County to pay “taxes” that consisted of a portion of the proceeds the gangs earned from various criminal activities, including drug trafficking. In return, gang members were permitted to exert influence over their neighborhoods and territories and seek protection or assistance from the Mexican Mafia.
Ojeda's girlfriend, Suzie Rodriguez, 53, was also found guilty in the RICO and VICAR conspiracies for acting as a messenger between Ojeda and local gang leaders while Ojeda was housed in a federal prison in Pennsylvania. During the trial, prosecutors argued that Rodriguez acted as Ojeda's eyes, ears and voice on the streets of Orange County. Following today's verdict, Rodriguez, who had been free on bond, was remanded into custody.
“Today's verdict demonstrates our ongoing commitment to using all available tools to dismantle the Mexican Mafia and the street gangs associated with it,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “No one associated with the Mexican Mafia – whether they are an actual member of the prison gang or the member of a gang affiliated with Mexican Mafia – is beyond the reach of the law. Whether their crimes are committed on the streets or in our prisons, gang members will be brought to justice.”
The Mexican Mafia is a powerful and violent prison gang that controls drug distribution and other illegal activities within the California penal system and on the streets of Southern California by organizing Latino street gang members for the purpose of establishing a larger network for the Mexican Mafia's illegal activities. If a street gang does not comply with the demands of the Mexican Mafia, the prison gang will order the assault or murder the offending gang's members, whether they are in custody or on the streets.
“The guilty verdicts today serve as an affirmation that should resonate with criminal gang enterprises that law enforcement will relentlessly pursue them to keep violence out of our communities and bring those involved to justice,” said Carlos Rojas, Chief of the Santa Ana Police Department. “This investigation and prosecution is an example of seamless cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement. The Santa Ana Police Department looks forward to continuing our partnerships to impact these violent criminal enterprises impacting our community.
Ojeda and Rodriguez are scheduled to be sentenced by United States District Judge James V. Selna on May 9. At that time, both defendants face potential sentences of life without parole in federal prison.
In the prior federal case, Ojeda pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate RICO and conspiring to distribute narcotics. In late 2006, he was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. It was while in federal prison that he participated in the subsequent conspiracy that led to his indictment in Operation Black Flag and today's guilty verdicts.
With the guilty verdicts today against Ojeda and Rodriguez, 59 defendants now have been convicted on federal charges related to Operation Black Flag (the remaining 40 defendants charged in the case were prosecuted by the Orange County District Attorney's Office).
The Santa Ana Gang Task Force is made up of agents and officers with the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Santa Ana Police Department; the Orange County Sheriff's Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives; and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The Anaheim Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and the United States Bureau of Prisons provided substantial assistance.
USAO – California, Central Updated January 14, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-005 / January 13, 2016