Gang leader who 'tormented' Hawaiian Gardens is sentenced to 30 years
A man identified as a drug kingpin and a key defendant in a federal gang sweep was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison for overseeing the racketeering and drug activities of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens street gang.
George Manuel Flores, also known as "Boxer," 43, was arrested in 2009 as part of Operation Knockout, one of the nation's largest gang sweeps. He was labeled a leader in the Hawaiian Gardens gangs and was accused of ordering gang members to collect "taxes" from drug dealers in the tiny southeastern city.
He pleaded guilty last March to five counts including racketeering conspiracy, being a felon in possession of ammunition and various other drug charges.
Flores was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who is presiding over the 57-defendant racketeering indictment. In court documents, prosecutors portrayed Flores as a drug lord.
"For over a decade, [Flores] ran what are fairly described as several illegal drug 'supermarkets' from houses in Hawaiian Gardens that were open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at which his customers could buy the drug of their choice," prosecutor Michael Lowe wrote.
U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. said Flores "tormented the city of Hawaiian Gardens for decades."
"The law-abiding residents of Hawaiian Gardens deserve safe neighborhoods, and this prosecution will go a long way toward restoring order to a community that was once under the thumb of criminal thugs and drug dealers," Birotte said.
As part of the plea, Flores admitted to distributing mass quantities of drugs, including more than 30 kilograms of heroin, more than 4.5 kilograms of crack cocaine, more than 1.5 kilograms of pure methamphetamine, more than 15 kilograms of narcotics that contained methamphetamine, and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. (A kilogram equals 2.2 pounds.)
During Operation Knockout, federal officials and sheriff's investigators seized more than 100 weapons.
"Flores' sentencing today in federal court is the final nail in the coffin for these gang members who prey on the weak and defenseless. The neighborhood of Hawaiian Gardens is much safer with Flores in prison for a long, long time," said John A. Torres, special agent in charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division.
The investigation began after Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Jerry Ortiz was gunned down in 2005 by a gang member he was attempting to arrest in connection with a shooting. In 2009, about 170 gang members and associates were taken into custody in the massive, multiagency operation.
Flores is the last defendant to be sentenced. Marcos Romero, also known as "Tortas," 45, was sentenced last November to 291 months in prison for being a primary wholesaler of narcotics. Brian Viramontes, a.k.a. "Looney," 36, a gang shot-caller, was sentenced in September to 210 months in federal prison for distributing narcotics.
The case also revealed a link between the Nazi Low Riders and the gang. Authorities say Frank Wayne Henley, a.k.a. "Spanky," 40, a member of the Nazi Low Riders gang, was sentenced last November to 262 months in prison for supplying members of the Hawaiian Gardens gang with methamphetamine and heroin.
-- Richard Winton