Reputed L.A. gang members plead not guilty in food-truck extortion case
Two reputed gang members pleaded not guilty Thursday to extorting money from food-truck vendors in South Los Angeles.
The pair is accused of demanding $50 a week in "rent" from vendors who worked in an area patrolled by officers from the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Street station. Vendors who refused were allegedly threatened, and one had a large rock hurled through the front window of his truck, according to the Los Angeles county district attorney's office.
For years, Los Angeles gang members have been accused of extorting money from vendors, taxi drivers, drug dealers and prostitutes.
But authorities say such cases are difficult to prove because witnesses are often reluctant to testify. Authorities also note that gang leaders directing such crimes are insulated because lower-level members are typically tasked with collecting the money.
The two defendants in the case -- Miguel Morales, 19, and Dainler Baquevano, 24 -- were arraigned at the criminal courts building downtown. They are scheduled for a preliminary hearing Jan. 26.
--Robert J. Lopez