US Department of Justice
A joint federal-state law enforcement operation this morning led to the arrest of 27 members and associates of an Ontario street gang who are named in federal racketeering and narcotics indictments that allege the gang has engaged in violent crimes and wide-ranging narcotics trafficking that helped fund the Mexican Mafia.
Today’s arrests are the result of two indictments returned by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles in recent weeks. The main indictment names a total of 50 defendants, 36 of whom are charged under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. In addition to the RICO charges, the indictment alleges violent crimes in aid of racketeering, conspiracies to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, and firearms violations. A second indictment charges another 10 defendants with narcotics trafficking violations.
Today’s operation targeting the Black Angels involved approximately 400 law enforcement personnel. In addition to the 27 arrested this morning, 25 defendants were already in custody. Authorities are continuing to search for eight defendants named in the indictment.
The federal indictments that led to this morning’s takedown focus on the Black Angels gang, a Latino street gang that was formed in Ontario more than 50 years ago. The Black Angels gang claims the entire city of Ontario as its turf, and is comprised of approximately 450 members, which includes full members of the gang and younger members in subgroups called Ontario Varrio Sur and Junior Black Angels. The indictment alleges that leaders of the Black Angels gang recruited and initiated juveniles to join the gang in a process that included visiting local high schools in search of potential members. The Black Angels gang is aligned with the Mexican Mafia, and there are at least four Mexican Mafia members in the Black Angels, according to the indictment.
The Black Angels’ main criminal activity is the distribution of narcotics, specifically methamphetamine and heroin, according to the indictment, which also alleges that leaders of the gang extort drug dealers – or, in gang parlance, collect “taxes” from those dealers – who are then allowed to operate in gang-controlled territory. The gang’s drug trafficking activities extend to smuggling narcotics into prisons for the benefit of incarcerated Mexican Mafia and Black Angels members, according to the indictment.
The RICO conspiracy count in the indictment alleges a series of specific overt acts, including the possession of one pound of methamphetamine, transporting narcotics from Mexico into the United States, shooting at police during a high-speed chase, an armed robbery of a convenience store, and the murder of a Black Angels member who ran afoul of the gang.
“Our citizens deserve to live without fear and intimidation inflicted by violent drug gangs,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Timothy J. Landrum. “Today’s arrests should significantly impact the violent drug related activity spreading throughout the Ontario area. This investigation is an example of the continued commitment of law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels to get violent drug traffickers and street gangs out of our communities.”
The lead defendant in the racketeering case is Armando “Mando” Barajas, a 46-year-old Mexican Mafia member who resides in Pomona. Barajas allegedly controls the gang’s activities, including the narcotics distribution activities in the gang's territory. Another Mexican Mafia member, Juan “Nito” Gil, 39, who is currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence, allegedly exercised control of gang activities by communicating directions through co-defendants Juan “Swifty” Diaz, 34, who is currently in custody; Juan Gil’s wife, Virginia Gil, 28, of Upland; and David “Plucky” Navarro, 30, of Rowland Heights, who allegedly supervised the gang’s extortion activities.
Those taken into custody this morning will begin making their initial appearances today at noon in United States District Court in Riverside.
“Today's arrests of members of the Black Angels on RICO charges that include allegations of extortion, narcotics trafficking, and firearms violations is evidence of law enforcement’s resolve to methodically disrupt and dismantle criminal street gangs and put their members and associates in prison,” observed Leslie P. DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge of IRS - Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office. “IRS - Criminal Investigation plays a unique role in federal law enforcement's counter-drug and anti-gang effort in that we target the profit and financial gains of these criminals, enabling increased criminal prosecutions.”
This case is the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Ontario Police Department. The Riverside-based task force operates within the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, and includes agents and officers from DEA, IRS-Criminal Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, the Riverside Sheriff’s Department, and the Riverside Police Department.
In addition to the agencies involved with HIDTA, several law enforcement agencies assisted in this morning’s takedown, including the Chino Police Department, the Pomona Police Department, the Rialto Police Department, the Upland Police Department and the Fontana Police Department.