[UPDATED with 17 More Swept Up:] 26 Charged with Carrying Out Mexican Mafia Orders in OC Jail

UPDATE, JULY 14, 5:01 P.M.: Besides the 26 Mexican Mafia members the District Attorney's office is prosecuting as a result of the Orange County Jail crimes uncovered through "Operation Black Flag," 17 Costa Mesa gang members were swept up by federal indictments related to the investigation.

The initial tip that snowballed into charges against 99 people involved Cesar "Roach" Munguia, 31, a high-ranking member of the Costa Mesa street gang Forming Kaos that is accused of dealing guns, methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin, according to authorities.

The Daily Pilot has the scoop.

Seventeen Forming Kaos members were among the 57 named in the federal indictments. One remains a fugitive. Four Costa Mesa locations were raided as part of the multi-agency operation.

At a news conference Wednesday, authorities reportedly displayed 45 seized weapons, photos of victims and suspects and a large outline of the Mexican Mafia's lines of communications between various branches behind bars and on the streets, including those in Orange County.

ORIGINAL POST, JULY 13, 4:35 P.M.: The Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) today charged 26 people with conspiring to commit murders and beat-downs in Orange County Jail at the behest of the Mexican Mafia.

The case represents the OC portion of "Operation Black Flag," a multi-agency investigation that has snared a total of 99 defendants, including 69 people named in 57 federal indictments.

The Orange County defendants are looking at bails of $80,000 to no bail, and maximum sentences of eight years to 58 years to life in state prison. Sentencing enhancements and previous felony strikes equal longer possible prison stretches.

The FBI, the Santa Ana Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives launched an investigation into the gang that controls Hispanic prisoners in Southern California jails and correctional facilities in October 2008.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department joined the probe in April 2009 for violations originating in the Orange County Jail. Other agencies involved in the investigation or prosecution of these cases include the California Department of Corrections Special Services Unit, U.S. Attorney's Office, who will prosecute the federal cases, and the OCDA, who will prosecute the state cases.

The investigation found that the Mexican Mafia not only calls the shots inside Orange County Jail, but it levies "taxes" street gangs must pay out of respect. Before April 2009, the prison gang was controlled in the Orange County Jail by Peter Ojeda, a 40-year Mexican Mafia member, according to the OCDA, which adds this changed that month when Armando Moreno, a higher-ranking prison gang member, was transported from state prison to the OC Jail.

When Moreno was headed back to state prison in July 2009, it was assumed Ojeda would resume control. But Moreno's supporters did not want to give up the reins of power, causing a violent split within the Mexican Mafia at Orange County Jail. It is supporters of Moreno who the OCDA accuses of carrying-out orders to assault and/or kill supporters of Ojeda.

"Defendants who commit crimes to glorify their gangs and continue to commit serious crimes behind bars are some of the most dangerous individuals in our society," District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says in a statement about the case. "The only place they belong is in prison and the Orange County District Attorney's office is committed to keeping them there for the rest of their lives."

"This operation is a prime example of what multi-agency task forces can accomplish to keep our communities safe," states Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters in the same release. "The collaboration in this case included local, state, and federal resources and will bring some dangerous individuals who were operating at a sophisticated level to justice."

The entire statement, which follows on the next page, goes into more detail about how orders were transmitted, how attacks were carried out, the level of violence that occurred, the cases against individual defendants, and how Mexican Mafia members interviewed on MSNBC's reality show Lockup Extended Stay were beaten for ignoring orders not to cooperate with the television production.
 

26 CHARGED WITH CONSPIRACIES TO COMMIT MURDER AND/OR ASSAULTS AT THE DIRECTION OF HISPANIC CALIFORNIA PRISON GANG
*This is part of Operation Black Flag involving 99 defendants; most of the defendants are inmates

SANTA ANA - The Orange County District Attorney's Office (OCDA) has charged 26 defendants for their participation in conspiracies to commit murders and aggravated assaults on seven inmates in the Orange County jail at the direction of a violent, Hispanic California Prison Gang (hereafter "Prison Gang").

These charges are part of a large multi-agency investigation, Operation Black Flag, which has netted a total of 99 defendants including 69 people in 57 federal indictments and the 26 people in seven Orange County criminal complaints. Of the 26 State defendants, 14 are ineligible to post a bail amount because each are already in custody serving sentences for unrelated felony cases in both the Orange County Jail and state prisons. The arraignment information pertaining to each of the seven Orange County cases is to be determined.

Operation Black Flag Investigation
In October 2008, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Santa Ana Police Department began investigating the Prison Gang. The Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) joined the investigation in April 2009 for violations originating in the Orange County Jail. Other agencies involved in the investigation or prosecution of these cases include the California Department of Corrections Special Services Unit, U.S. Attorney's Office, who will prosecute the federal cases, and the OCDA, who will prosecute the State cases.
For more information on the federal cases, please visit the Central District of California U.S. Attorneys Office at http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/.

Background of the Prison Gang
The Prison Gang operates throughout California and exercises control over "Southern Hispanic" inmates within the State prison and jail systems. Southern Hispanics are defined as any Hispanic person from Southern California. The Prison Gang also controls criminal street gangs, whose members pay drug-sale "taxes" to the Prison Gang as a sign of respect and as an assurance that they will be viewed as loyal to the Prison Gang if and when they are arrested and incarcerated in jail or state prison.

The two primary functions of the Prison Gang are to incite fear in other inmates and control the prison drug trade. Drugs may be sold in prison at five to 10 times the price on the street. 

Background of the Criminal Cases
Prior to April 2009, the Prison Gang was controlled in the Orange County Jail by Peter Ojeda, a 40-year member of the Prison Gang. In April 2009, Armando Moreno, a higher-ranking member of the Prison Gang, was transported to Orange County Jail from State prison and is accused of assuming control of the gang. Moreno is accused of maintaining control until July 2009, when he was transported back to State prison.  At that time, supporters of Ojeda expected him to resume control, but supporters of Moreno refused to relinquish it. This refusal resulted in an immediate, violent split between the two factions of the same prison gang.

Supporters of Moreno are accused of carrying-out orders to assault and/or kill supporters of Ojeda. Southern Hispanic inmates are accused of receiving orders transmitted using "kites," or small notes passed throughout the jail between gang members to target specifically named people, anyone loyal to Ojeda, and members of two specific Hispanic Santa Ana criminal streets gangs that associated both on the street and in custody. 

At the time the violence began over Moreno and Ojeda's battle for control in the Orange County Jail, Moreno was incarcerated at Tehachapi State Prison and Ojeda was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA. Moreno and Ojeda are both being prosecuted at the federal level in this case.

July 2009 to December 2010: Orange County Theo Lacy Facility Jail cases
Criminal complaints have been filed against 26 defendants in seven cases involving seven victims. For a complete list of the Orange County defendants and their charges, please see the charts below.

Of these seven cases, five involve supporters of Moreno. In these cases, the defendants are accused of targeting members of the same Prison Gang who were loyal to or supporters of Ojeda. One of the inmate victims was attacked for being a member of a Santa Ana criminal street gang that had been "green lighted" by the prison gang. To give the "green light" means to give an order to assault or kill a specific person or gang.

These five attacks occurred on different days and the violence often included punching, kicking, and using a slashing weapon to cut or stab the victims. The victims were seriously injured, but none died, as OCSD deputies quickly responded in each case prior to the defendants completing their plans to murder the victims.

The other two cases involve orders issued against two Southern Hispanic inmates by Ojeda's faction of the prison gang after asserting that no Southern Hispanic was to cooperate with or participate in interviews with television crews from MSNBC's Lockup Extended Stay, which was taping in the Orange County Jail.

The defendants are accused of assaulting two Southern Hispanic inmates who gave interviews to the television program. The attacks included punching, kicking, and using a slashing weapon to cut or stab the victims. The violence against the first victim, Jaime Torres, occurred the day after the episode in which he was featured aired on television. The violence against Joseph Baez occurred on Dec. 31, 2010. His interview was never aired.

"Defendants who commit crimes to glorify their gangs and continue to commit serious crimes behind bars are some of the most dangerous individuals in our society. The only place they belong is in prison and the Orange County District Attorney's Office is committed to keeping them there for the rest of their lives," stated District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. 

"This operation is a prime example of what multi-agency task forces can accomplish to keep our communities sage.  The collaboration in this case included local, state, and federal resources and will bring some dangerous individuals who were operating at a sophisticated level to justice," stated Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters.

Defendants:

Case # TBA; Victim Jaime Torres (provided interview to MSNBC)
Name-Age,  Felony Charges, Sentencing Enhancements, Max. Exposure, Bail
Eberardo Diaz-28, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault,  aggravated assault, personal use of a deadly weapon,  inflicting great bodily injury,  criminal street gang activity, 12 years in state prison, no bail; in custody
Robert Riel- 32, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault,  aggravated assault, criminal street gang activity, 11 years in state prison, no bail; in custody

Case # 11CF1786; Victim Jason Baez (provided interview to MSNBC)
Name- Age, Felony Charges, Sentencing Enhancements, Max. Exposure, Bail
Ian Anthony Bulander-22, conspiracy to commit murder,  attempted murder,  criminal street gang activity, inflicting great bodily injury, 25 years to life in state prison, no bail; in custody
Alberto Vasquez- 26,  conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder,    prison prior (#07NF2202) 2008 conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon, criminal street gang activity, inflicting great bodily injury, 26 years to life in state prison, no bail; in custody
Sixto Dimas-30, conspiracy to commit murder,  attempted murder, prior strike conviction (#07CF1226) for 2007 criminal threats, criminal street gang activity, inflicting great bodily injury, 58 years to life in state prison, $1 million
Martin Avila- 31, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, prison prior Los Angeles County case  (#KA07856001)  2006 unlawful taking of a vehicle, criminal street gang activity, inflicting great bodily injury, 26 years to life in state prison, no bail; in custody
Rudy Palomo- 28, conspiracy to commit murder attempted murder,  criminal street gang activity, inflicting great bodily injury, 25 years to life in state prison, $1 million
Robert Reil- 32, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, prison prior Los Angeles County case  (#YA06787801) for 2007 petty theft with a prior, criminal street gang activity, inflicting great bodily injury, 26 years to life in state prison, $1 million

Case # TBA; Victim Eduardo Padilla; supporter of Ojeda
Name-Age,  Felony Charges,  Sentencing Enhancements, Max. Exposure, Bail
Alberta Luna- 28, aggravated assault , prison prior (#04NF2978) for felony conviction 2004 commercial burglary, prison prior (#07NF1433) for felony conviction 2007 possession of a deadly weapon, criminal street gang activity, 10 years in state prison, no bail; in custody
Jose Antonio Montejano- 40, aggravated assault, prior strike conviction (#95NF0393) for  1995 robbery, criminal street gang activity, 17 years to life in state prison,  $150,000
Gerardo Castro- 25, aggravated assault , prior strike conviction (#VA074965) for 2003 robbery, criminal street gang activity 17 years to life in state prison, no bail; in custody

Case # TBA; Victim Francisco Maldonado; supporter of Ojeda
Name-Age, Felony Charges, Sentencing Enhancements, Max. Exposure, Bail
Estavan Garcia Cardoso- 26, aggravated assault, prior strike (#04WF1219) for 2005 conviction for participation in a criminal street gang, criminal street gang activity, 17 years in state prison, no bail; in custody
Victor Galaviz- 34, aggravated assault, criminal street gang activity, 8 years in state prison, $150,000 Ronald Melendez-36, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, prior strike conviction (#98CF0094) for 1998 robbery, prior strike conviction (#93CF3661) for 1993 robbery, criminal street gang activity, 40 years to life in state prison, no bail; in custody
Carmen Lopez- 42, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, criminal street gang activity, 8 years in state prison, $80,000
Georgina Mendoza- 41, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, criminal street gang activity, 8 years in state prison, $80,000

Case # 11CF1788: Victims Eduardo Padilla & Sergio Castillo; supporters of Ojeda
Name-Age, Felony Charges, Sentencing Enhancements, Max. Exposure, Bail
Eric Lopez- 30, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, prison prior (#01NF3208) for 2001 felony conviction for receipt of stolen property, prison prior (#04NF4026) for 2004 felony conviction for participation in a criminal street gang, prison prior (#07NF1523) for 2007 felony conviction for criminal street gang participation, criminal street gang activity 57 years to life in state prison, $1 million

Case # 11CF1789; Victim William Phillips; supporter of Ojeda
Name-Age, Felony Charges, Sentencing Enhancements, Max. Exposure, Bail
Eric Contreras- 20, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault, criminal street gang activity, 25 years to life in state prison, no bail; in custody
Michael Navarro- 37, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault, criminal street gang activity, 25 years to life in state prison, $1 million
Rudy Gonzalez- 28, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault, prior strike conviction Los Angeles  felony case (#VA04419) for 2006 robbery, criminal street gang activity, 55 to life in state prison, no bail; in custody
Michael Munoz- 41, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault, prior strike conviction (#C-74994) for 1989 robbery, prison prior (#02NF2854) for 2006 possession of methamphetamine, criminal street gang activity, 56 to life in state prison, $1 million
Robert Joseph Garcia Cervantes- 21, conspiracy to commit murder, aggravated assault, criminal street gang activity, 25 years to life in state prison, no bail; in custody

Case # TBA; Victim Salvador Mendoza; supporter of Ojeda
Name-Age, Felony Charges, Sentencing Enhancements, Max. Exposure, Bail
Robert Muro- 26, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, criminal street gang activity, 25 years to life in state prison, no bail; in custody
Gabriel Diaz- 26, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder , prior strike conviction (#06WF0483), criminal street gang activity, 55 years to life in state prison, $1 million
Erick Gonzalez- 22,  conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, criminal street gang activity, 25 years to life in state prison, $1 million
Elias Joseph Sanchez- 20, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder criminal street gang activity, 25 years to life in state prison, no bail; in custody
Vidal Yobani Soto- 22, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, criminal street gang activity, 25 years to life in state prison, $1 million

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