LOS ANGELES– A Mexican Mafia member who is also a member of the El Monte Flores street gang, and another man who was a “shotcaller” of the gang, have pleaded guilty to federal racketeering offenses.
The two gang leaders pleaded guilty Thursday in United States District Court after they were indicted in 2014 in a racketeering indictment that focused on the El Monte Flores gang, an organization that takes direction from the Mexican Mafia prison gang and controls criminal activity in the cities of El Monte and South El Monte.
James “Chemo” Gutierrez, 53, of El Monte, who is the Mexican Mafia member and the lead defendant in the indictment, and Kenneth Cofer, 36, also of El Monte, each pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. They also each pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute controlled substances, including methamphetamine and heroin, and conspiring to launder money. Additionally, Cofer pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
Gutierrez and Cofer pleaded guilty before United States District Judge John A. Kronstadt, who is scheduled to sentence Gutierrez on July 28 and Cofer on September 8. If Judge Kronstadt accepts the plea agreements in the case, Gutierrez and Cofer will each be sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
The indictment in the case alleged that members of the El Monte Flores gang members committed crimes that included acts of violence (ranging from battery to murder), drug trafficking, robbery, burglary, carjacking, witness intimidation, kidnapping, weapons trafficking, credit card fraud, identity theft, and money laundering. The indictment outlined a dispute between Gutierrez and other members of the Mexican Mafia who were vying for control over the gang.
“We have effectively targeted criminal enterprises that operate as street gangs for two decades, using the federal racketeering statute to dismantle the leadership structure and incarcerate street-level operatives,” said United States Attorney Eileen M. Decker. “Street gangs present one of the most dangerous criminal elements in Southern California, and we will use every tool at our disposal to restore order to neighborhoods affected by their violence and other criminal activity.”
In his plea agreement, Gutierrez admitted that he “regularly received extortionate ‘tax' payments from individuals trafficking narcotics in the neighborhoods controlled by the El Monte Flores gang.” Gutierrez “knew that the narcotics traffickers would be subject to violent attacks if they failed to pay the extortionate taxes to the El Monte Flores gang.” Gutierrez acknowledged in his plea agreement that he authorized an attack on a rival gang member.
Cofer admitted in his plea agreement that he “managed and supervised the extortion and drug trafficking activities…[and] directed the use of violence on behalf” of the criminal enterprise. Cofer specifically admitted that he authorized the shooting of a person who had a dispute with another member of the gang.
Gutierrez and Cofer admitted their roles in threats to use violence to extort “taxes” from drug dealers and fraudulent document vendors at “Crawford's Plaza” (at Valley Boulevard and Garvey Avenue).
In addition to Gutierrez and Cofer, 19 other defendants named in the RICO indictment have pleaded guilty to date.
The investigation into the El Monte Flores gang was conducted by a task force that included the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; IRS Criminal Investigation; and the El Monte Police Department.
Drug Trafficking Violent Crimes Updated April 11, 2016
Central District of California DOJ / 16-070 / April 9, 2016