Mexican Mafia members accused of murder, other crimes in California face racketeering charges

The Mexican Mafia, known as 'La Eme' is made up of the leaders of different street gangs and is largely run from inside California prisons and jails.

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Federal prosecutors announced racketeering charges against 31 Mexican Mafia members and associates in California's Orange County, alleging the gang's leadership ordered murders, conspired to distribute drugs and participated in other crimes. 

A 106-page indictment unsealed Wednesday targets three leaders within the notorious prison gang and numerous associates. The allegations include two murders, six attempted killings, extortion and drug trafficking in Orange County.

Twenty-one of those charged were already in custody and nine others were arrested in the past two days. One remains a fugitive.

"The Mexican Mafia allegedly preyed on vulnerable communities through fear, violence, and intimidation," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kenneth Polite Jr. said.

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The Justice Department said members of the group conspired to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, committing violent crimes to aid racketeering, conspiring to traffic drugs, dealing methamphetamine and heroin, and firearms charges.

The Mexican Mafia, known as "La Eme," is made up of the leaders of different street gangs and is largely run from inside California prisons and jails. Leaders direct associates to collect "taxes" on drug proceeds and order hits on enemies or people who violate their rules.

Peter Ojeda headed the Mexican Mafia in Orange County for decades until his death in 2018, when three men filled the void, prosecutors said. 

Authorities said Johnny Martinez, Robert Aguirre, and Dennis Ortiz were in charge of criminal activities in Orange County and within its jails and prison facilities. 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.