This week, Salvador Reyes Vera hoped he'd receive a 20-year federal prison sentence for operating a massive cocaine and heroin distributorship because, as his taxpayer-funded defense lawyer argued, that was long enough to teach the high-ranking Santa Ana gangster a lesson about obeying the law.
In fact, lawyer Jack D. Early presented Vera as a bumbling, Minnie Street Lopers drug kingpin who was never violent, took crap from bitchy customers, delivered drugs himself, gave generous discounts and stored drugs in “holes in the ground and inside rotting logs.”
Sure enough, there is evidence that Sal “Magic” Vera wasn't always a genius.
Consider this portion of a telephone conversation secretly recorded by the Santa Ana Gang Task Force (which includes Santa Ana Police Department officers as well as FBI and ATF agents):
Fellow gangster: Hey.
What's going on, fool?
What's going on, fool? Who's calling?
What are you doing?
Oh, here at the party, fool.
What's going on?
The guys from East Side came to my pad, fool.
Not exactly John Steinbeck dialogue, huh?
Anyho, Assistant United States Attorney Terri K. Flynn
wasn't delighted that Vera's Bishop Manor-based operation used 14 and
15-year-old boys as drug couriers to supply the narcotics to customers
throughout Orange County and also at Irvine CVS and Trader Joe's stores.
Orange County jury wasn't impressed with Vera either. It found him
guilty of distributing more than 100 grams of heroin, more than 500
grams of cocaine and more than 280 grams of crack cocaine.
wanted the statutory minimum punishment of 20 years, but Flynn pushed
for a 30-year prison term and a 10-year probation period after his
release from custody.
On June 27, U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna sided with Flynn.
Vera, 32, has not yet been shipped to a federal prison. He remains in custody at the Santa Ana Jail and has already filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit. He can take comfort that his 13-year-old daughter told Selna, “My dad will always be my hero” and his sister, Maricela, described him as “a good person . . . outgoing with a great personality.”
to court documents, others involved in Vera's drug operation were
arrested, convicted and punished: Javier Camacho (120 months in prison),
Jose Goicochea-Chavez (70 months), Ruben Guerrero-Orejel (46 months),
Gloria Calderon (51 months), Manuel Duarte-Aguilera (37 months), Jesus
Higareda (30 months), Julio Ahumada (30 months), Elmer Duarte (14
months), Edgar Mondragon (37 months) and Fillip Chabotrov (5 months).
The gangsters used nicknames like MeMe, Shorty, Mando, Primo, Chiquis, Crow, Yogi, Bugsy and Little Clown.
Vera's younger brother, Armando Reyes Vera, remains in custody but his case hasn't been resolved.
R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.