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8 alleged Valley gang leaders indicted by grand jury

November 12, 2010 | 12:42 pm

A grand jury indictment was unsealed Friday against eight alleged leaders of the Canoga Park Alabama street gang, who face conspiracy and extortion charges that could send them to prison for life.

The defendants are identified in an 11-count state grand jury indictment unsealed by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Patricia M. Schnegg after a joint Los Angeles Police Department-federal probe of one of the San Fernando Valley's most notorious gangs.

Six of the alleged gang members were arrested Nov. 4 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the LAPD, while two defendants were already in custody on unrelated charges.

Prosecutors said the indictment is the culmination of a nearly two-year multi-agency investigation focusing on the Canoga Park Alabama gang's suspected involvement in extortion.

The indictment alleges that between Oct. 1, 2009, and Oct. 31 of this year, the defendants demanded and collected so-called street "taxes" from narcotics dealers in return for allowing those dealers to operate on the gang's turf.

Because the offenses allegedly were committed with the intention of benefiting a criminal street gang, prosecutors in the Los Angeles County district attorney's office are seeking a "gang enhancement," making the defendants subject to a maximum penalty of life in prison if they are convicted.

LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk J. Albanese said Canoga Park Alabama has been involved in violent and hate-based crimes in the San Fernando Valley for many years.

"As a result of their criminal activity, the community has lived in fear for far too long," he said. "The hate-based criminal activities that have become a staple for this gang will never be tolerated. These arrests will mark the beginning of the end for this violent criminal street gang."

Each of the defendants is being held in lieu of $1-million bail after entering not-guilty pleas.

Those charged were:

Octavio "Sinner" Garcia, 30, of Canoga Park; Joseph "Lil Man" Encinas, 28, of Canoga Park; Osvaldo "Babo" Sanchez, 22, of Canoga Park; Alejandro "Sicko" Flores, 23, of Canoga Park; Ramiro "Speedy" Mendoza, 37, of West Hills; Jaime "Jimmy" Valenzuela, 29, of Canoga Park; Braulio "Necio" Garcia, 24, of Canoga Park; and Jairo Melendez, 31, of Canoga Park.

-- Richard Winton