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Dozens of alleged Mexican Mafia members arrested in O.C. raid

July 13, 2011 |  1:18 pm

Dozens of alleged Orange County gang members were arrested Wednesday as federal and state prosecutors charged 99 people with ties to the Mexican Mafia prison gang for crimes ranging from narcotics to conspiracy to commit murder.

In predawn raids, more than 500 federal and local law enforcement officers served search warrants, climaxing a 32-month probe that focused on Mexican Mafia and Costa Mesa’s Forming Kaos gang.

In a series of indictments made public Wednesday, federal prosecutors painted a picture of a large criminal enterprise overseen by an almost feudal-like lord or head of the county’s Mexican Mafia.

Local Latino gangs in cities including Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Anaheim would be forced to pay  "taxes," or tributes, to the Mexican Mafia and leader Peter Ojeda would in turn allegedly grant them territories to sell narcotics and control criminal enterprises, according to prosecutors.

The raids are an extension of a strategy already deployed against the criminal Mexican Mafia and its associated gangs in Los Angeles County.

The indictment alleges that the criminal enterprise’s hierarchy would discipline gangs and their members who engaged in unsanctioned violence or did not pay taxes as required.

Gang members who stepped out of line would be put on a “hard candy” list, which meant that any member or associate of the O.C. Mexican Mafia could kill them.

But with Ojeda’s imprisonment in 2007, a rival boss, Armando Moreno, allegedly tried to hard candy Ojeda’s associates and escalated the violence, according to prosecutors.

Federal agents with support from Orange County sheriff's officers and local police took 26 of the 57 federal defendants wanted for racketeering, extortion, narcotics and murder into custody Wednesday.

Another 25 of those named were already incarcerated on unrelated charges.

U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte said six wanted individuals remained fugitives and were being sought be the Santa Ana gang task force. Several other gang associates were also arrested on local charges.

“No member of the Mexican Mafia, and no gang member affiliated with the Mexican Mafia, is beyond the reach of the law,” Birotte said. “We will bring gangsters to justice, whether they commit their crimes on our streets or in our prisons."

According to the five federal indictments, 57 members or associates of the Mexican Mafia and the Forming Kaos street gang committed crimes including drug trafficking, conspiracy and murder.

Prosecutors said Ojeda was previously indicted in 2005 and was currently serving time in federal prison for his conviction in that case.

A second racketeering indictment targeted 17 members of the Forming Kaos gang.

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-- Richard Winton

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