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Indictments link Mexican Mafia and street gangs

November 27, 2012 | 12:25 pm

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Ventura County officials on Tuesday said a sweeping grand jury indictment had at least temporarily broken a link between rival street gangs and the Mexican Mafia prison group that was squeezing them for their drug profits.

Dist. Atty. Greg Totten said 27 people, including two juveniles, have been accused of conspiring to commit a variety of felonies, extortion, home invasion robberies and assault. All but two have been arrested.

The Mexican Mafia, a highly organized, prison-based gang, has been operating for decades and has frequently been known to extort money from street gangs. However, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said local law enforcement has never before seen the group forcing street gangs that are ordinarily deadly rivals into working together to commit violent crimes.

It's a worrisome trend because it can make local gangs more powerful, said Assistant Sheriff Gary Pentis. It also may reflect orders coming from drug cartels in Mexico as they attempt to extend their authority over California drug trafficking, he said.

In Ventura County, officials said the investigation known as "Operation Wicked Hand" started with a pair of shootings in Moorpark in April and a local heroin bust around the same time. Orders to local gangs were relayed through Martin "Evil" Madrigal, who is in prison on unrelated charges, and a local gang member named Edwin "Sporty" Mora, according to the indictment.

Sheriff's officials said deputies thwarted a number of crimes before they could proceed, including two planned killings and a drugstore robbery.

The 35-count indictment was returned Nov. 14. 

Authorities said another 16 arrests are expected. Bail for the 25 arrested so far ranges from $1 million to $5 million.

For the record, 3:58 p.m. Nov. 27: An earlier post identified the Ventura County sheriff as Geoff Carpenter. He is Geoff Dean.

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-- Steve Chawkins

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