18th Street gang member gets life in prison in racketeering case
A member of a notorious Los Angeles street gang was sentenced to life in prison in a federal racketeering case sparked by the killing of a baby in a 2007 shooting gone bad, authorities said Wednesday night.
The 3-week-old infant was slain on a bustling Westlake street after a gunman opened fire on a vendor who had refused to pay "rent" demanded by the 18th Street gang in exchange for the right to hawk cheap electronic goods, authorities said. The baby, who was in his mother's stroller, was struck by a stray bullet.
In the aftermath of the brazen killing, federal authorities launched a racketeering investigation and charged gang members with crimes that included shaking down vendors and drug dealers.
Javier Perez, 35, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the racketeering scheme, said Kevin M. Lally, deputy chief of the violent and organized crime section at the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.
Several dozen members of the gang have already been convicted and a number of them have been sentenced, said Lally, who helped prosecute the case.
Formed in Los Angeles in the 1960s, 18th Street is one the city's largest gangs and has spread across the United States and into Mexico and Central America. For years, members of the gang in Los Angeles have extorted drug dealers and immigrant street vendors who try to make a living selling clothes, food and other items.
— Robert J. Lopez
Photo: Member of the 18th Street gang in Los Angeles bears the symbols of his gang affiliation in this 1996 portrait. Credit: Los Angeles Times