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13 indicted, 8 arrested in Calif. drug cartel investigation

Federal officials announced Tuesday that 13 people had been indicted and eight had been arrested following a investigation into what authorities say was an alliance between members of a California prison gang and a Mexican drug cartel. 

The indictment, one of two unsealed Tuesday,  alleges that the two criminal organizations sought to accommodate each other in a scheme referred to as "The Project" by its participants. The arrangement sought to give members of the La Familia Michoacána drug cartel (commonly known as "La Familia")  free rein to sell methamphetamine in Southern California. In exchange, members of the Mexican Mafia prison gang would receive money and methamphetamine. Participants in "The Project" would also provide protection for incarcerated cartel members.

The indictment describes the Mexican Mafia as a powerful prison gang that controls the drug trade and other criminal activities within California state prisons, county jails, and federal penitentiaries. Its members are generally senior members of Latino street gangs, and the Mexican Mafia also allegedly exercises control over the narcotics trafficking activities of the gangs in Southern California, as well as in prisons

"Today's salvo against the Mexican Mafia is part of a 20-year fight to curb the influence of the prison gang both inside prison walls and on the streets of Southern California," said United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. in a statement. "We successfully dismantled the gang's leadership structure in prior cases, causing chaos throughout the organization. Now we have demonstrated our ability to stop the Mexican Mafia from realizing a new power base by disrupting the gang's plot to establish a threatening alliance with a major drug trafficking organization."

The eight people who were arrested Tuesday are: 

Michael Moreno, aka "Boo," 55, of Fresno, Calif.,an alleged member of the Mexican Mafia.

Freddie Montes, 44, of Castaic, Calif., an alleged member of La Familia

Manuel Larry Jackson, aka "Cricket," 49, of Monterey Park, Calif., an alleged member of the Mexican Mafia 

Jimmy Ruben Soto, aka "Rube" and "Old Man," 77, of Visalia, Calif., an alleged member of the Mexican Mafia

Sonia Apodaca, aka "Shorty," 44, of El Monte, Calif., an alleged "secretary" of the Mexican Mafia

Claudia Garcia, aka "Giggles," 42, of Los Angeles, an alleged associate of the Mexican Mafia

Adam Rios, aka "Blanco," 35, of Slymar, Calif. an alleged associate of La Familia

Omar Hugo Robles, 30, of Sylmar, Calif., an alleged associated of La Familia

Four others named in the indictment were already in custody. They are: 

Jose Rodriguez-Landa, also known as "Fox" and "Fox Tapia," 49, of Michoacan, Mexico, an alleged Mexican Mafia member currently in custody at a Los Angeles County jail

Fred Anthony Montoya, aka "Fast Freddy," 46, of Antioch, Calif., an alleged Mexican Mafia member currently in custody at a California state prison

Luis Gerardo Vega, aka "Little" and "Little One," 30, of Los Angeles, an alleged Mexican Mafia member currently in custody at a Los Angeles County jail

Raymond Lozano, 36, of San Diego, an alleged Mexican Mafia associate currently incarcerated in a federal prison

The 13th person named in the indictment, 35-year-old Efrain Isak Rosales, aka "Tucan," is an alleged member of La Familia who resides in Mexico and is currently being sought by the authorities. 

According to the indictment, the members of La Familia named above oversaw distribution of methamphetamine and marijuana in Southern California and provided money and drugs at discounted prices to members of the Mexican Mafia. Officials say that 600 pounds of methamphetamine were seized during the investigation and six additional defendants, whose names were not disclosed, were charged in state court. 

The second indictment unsealed Tuesday charged 31 members of the Florencia 13 street gang, which operates in south Los Angeles County, with federal racketeering (RICO) violations, as well as narcotics, firearms, and fraud offenses. The indictment alleges that two members of the Mexican Mafia directed Florencia 13's activities from California state penitentiary, where they received payments derived from the gang's activities, specifically the sale of drugs and firearms, fraud, and extortion. 23 of the 31 members charged in the indictment were either arrested Tuesday, had already been arrested as a result of the investigation, or were in custody on state charges in California prior to Tuesday. The other eight are being sought as fugitives. 

"These two investigations disrupted the criminal activities of the Mexican Mafia, the Los Angeles street gang Florencia 13, and the Mexican Mafia's relationship with the La Familia drug cartel, which is responsible for using firearms to commit violent crimes and trafficking hundreds of thousands of pounds of controlled substances into the United States," Steven J. Bogdalek, ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Division, said in a statement. 

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California, the indictments represent the largest the largest crackdown on the Mexican Mafia's members since a series of RICO cases were brought against the gang's leadership in the 1990s.

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