A federal judge this week sentenced a Mexican Mafia associate living in Santa Ana to a whopping 168-month prison term for his role in the violent, racketeering enterprise.
The specific details of what crimes Ernie Melendez (a.k.a. “Camel”) confessed to committing in a guilty plea deal are unknown because the government demanded that huge portions of their case be sealed from public view.
Inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna also ordered that Melendez undergo supervised probation for three years whenever he re-emerges back into society.
A federal grand jury indicted Melendez in 2011 after a massive federal, state and local law enforcement probe, “Operation Black Flag,” into Peter Ojeda's alleged organized crime activities in Southern California.
There has been no resolution in the government's case against the 71-year-old Ojeda (a.k.a. “The Big Homie”), who remains locked inside the Santa Ana Jail.
Other hoodlums who've been sentence in the case include: Kinney Urbie (a.k.a “Fat Ass”), 60 months; and Rigoberto Aguilar (a.k.a. “Sneaky”), 84 months.
According to various incarceration records, Melendez, 40, is serving a portion of his federal punishment inside Ironwood State Prison in Blythe. At a future date when he's done serving a state sentence, he'll be bused to a federal facility to complete the remainder of his term.
The undercover law enforcement operation included the FBI and ATF as well as police departments in Santa Ana and Costa Mesa.