The U.S. attorney’s office charged leaders of the infamous Mexican Mafia on Wednesday with running a conspiracy to control drug trafficking and carry out violence from inside Los Angeles County jails.
83 people linked to racketeering conspiracies, drug-running, violent attacks, and murder were charged.
Authorities shared that 32 people were arrested in the operation, 35 were already in custody while another 16 remain at large as fugitives. The charges were neatly outlined in two recently unsealed indictments.
The U.S. attorney’s office considered the outcome of such operation as a success and a huge step forward in the fight against the notorious group. U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said: “By taking out the gang members who control the jails, and by disrupting their communications network, we undermined the Mexican Mafia’s ability to coordinate street gang activity.”
Nearly 500 members of law enforcement joined forces in the impressive sweep. The task force included the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Pomona Police Department.
The freshly unsealed indictments reveal that Mexican Mafia leaders called shots from behind bars that controlled drug dealing and violence both in jail and on the streets. The indictments also gave a detailed narration on how the Mexican Mafia, known as the “gang of gangs,” put in place a methodical system to communicate from inside prison, manage gang territory and collect “taxes” for drug sales through extortion.
The proceeds from the drugs smuggled inside the prison by facilitators of the Mexican Mafia and sold goods to the gang’s leader. Other groups that managed to bring in drugs were required to give a third of their contraband to the Mexican Mafia leadership. The fee named as a “thirds” tax, shared the name “Operations Dirty Thirds” to the police probe.
The gang’s leadership was able to exert control by threatening to carry out violence if people didn’t pay up or “follow the rules- their rules.”
Named as leaders of the operations are Jose Landa-Rodriguez and two gang members who have both since died behind bars between 2012 and 2016.
55-year-old Landa-Rodriguez is accused of sanctioning murders, assaults and the kidnapping and killing of a relative of a gang member who disobeyed him.
A second higher-up in the gang, 33-year-old Luis Vega also ordered a murder and directed assaults against those who defied them and their rules.
A lawyer and several women referred to as “secretaries” assisted in “facilitating activities and communication outside of jails.”
Authorities revealed that the tactics of the gang would be that drugs were often smuggled into jail by people who would deliberately have themselves arrested on minor offenses so they could be sent to jail. They would then hide drugs in body cavities.