Members and Associates of Mexican Mafia-Affiliated Street Gangs in San Fernando Valley Arrested by Task Force in Second Phase of Operation “Double Header”

A task force comprised of FBI agents and Los Angeles police officers, formed to address criminal activity in the northeast San Fernando Valley, arrested 14 of 18 individuals who were charged for their roles in a narcotics distribution network and the illegal sales of firearms, announced André Birotte Jr., United States Attorney in Los Angeles; Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, and Chief Charlie Beck of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Ten of those charged were taken into custody by task force members during the execution of arrest warrants carried out early this morning. Four of those charged were previously in custody on unrelated charges and four are being sought be the task force. Nine federal defendants were charged in five criminal complaints filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and the remaining nine cases will be filed with the state of California. Additionally, five federal search warrants and two state search warrants were served this morning in connection with the operation.

The federal defendants are listed below:

John Anthony Garcia, 45, of Sylmar, in custody
Cesar Octavio Venegas, 35, of Arleta, currently being sought by task force
Sandra Edit Ceja, 35, of Pacoima, currently being sought by task force
Luis Carlos Lopez, 33, of Palmdale, in custody
Albert Mario Herrera, 35, of Palmdale, currently being sought by task force
Jesus Jonathon Flores, 25, of Pacoima, in custody
Jimmy Madrid, 47, Pacoima, in custody
Michael William Wisar, 26, Sylmar, in custody
Miguel Angel Sanchez Cedillos, 33, in custody

The state defendants are listed below:

Jorge A. Aguilar of Pacoima, in custody
Nathan Bedford Bowman of Palmdale, in custody
Joseph Garcia of Sylmar, in custody
Genevieve Lopez, of Palmdale, in custody
Emilio Navarette Lopez, in custody
Eduardo Ayala, of North Hollywood, in custody
Berta Ayala, of North Hollywood, in custody
Jesse Rodriguez, of Mission Hills, in custody

A ninth defendant, not named at this time, is being sought by task force

Operation Double Header is the second phase of an investigation first initiated by the task force in 2008 to address gang-related violent crime in the San Fernando Valley. The investigation focused on identifying and disrupting drug trafficking organizations and related violence carried out by Hispanic gangs associated with the Mexican Mafia In 2009, two dozen gang members were charged in federal indictments.

The criminal enterprise targeted in the latest phase of the investigation focused on a recent merger between two Pacoima-based gangs. “Project Boys,” a violent gang that operates primarily within the San Fernando Valley Housing Projects, and which has been subject to a permanent gang injunction since 2001, aligned themselves with members of a neighboring gang, known as “Pacoima Flats.” Evidence obtained through the investigation indicates the merger was initiated by the Project Boys in order to avoid the terms of the gang injunction. The alliance is known as the “Project Flats.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge, Steve Martinez, said, “The FBI remains committed to working with LAPD to identify the most violent criminal enterprises in the city of Los Angeles who control neighborhoods by operating drug networks, extorting citizens, and committing violent acts to maintain that control.”

The federal criminal complaints outline a narcotics distribution ring in which defendants played multiple roles in a coordinated methamphetamine trafficking enterprise by supplying drugs to gangs based in and around Pacoima, California. The complaints allege that some of the defendants relayed communications between currently incarcerated Mexican Mafia members and street level associates, known as “Camaradas,” who are authorized to control gang and narcotics activity through the collection of taxes in Pacoima area.

Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese, Commanding Officer, Operations - Valley Bureau, said he is confident that today’s arrests will have a significant impact on criminal activity associated with the Project Boys street gang.

According to the complaints, confidential sources working with the task force met with certain defendants to carry out a variety of transactions involving methamphetamine and weapons sales. The alleged transactions took place at various locations throughout the course of the investigation, to include the defendants’ homes and public areas. The complaints allege that defendants used various methods of concealing and transporting narcotics to avoid detection by law enforcement, and used coded messages to communicate. Sold narcotics identified through this investigation totaled approximately 29.5 ounces. Drug Enforcement Administration Laboratories estimated the purity of the sold methamphetamine to range between 95 - 100 percent.

The task force utilized a variety of investigative techniques throughout this investigation including court-authorized wire interceptions, surveillance, undercover operations and confidential sources. The federal defendants are charged with violations including conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine, as well as various firearms offenses involving handguns and assault rifles, including some modified to be used as fully-automatic weapons.

In addition, information gleaned through this investigation led to the identification of multiple extortion schemes and valuable information concerning four murders that was provided to homicide detectives assigned to those cases.

Evidence seized during today’s searches included over $10,000 in cash; three handguns; two shotguns; one M1 rifle; 2 SKS assault rifles; various ammunition; various gun modification parts; three bags of methamphetamine (unknown weight at this time); and drug paraphernalia

The Department of Children and Family Services took custody of one child and initiated investigations on several additional children at the arrest/search locations.

The federal defendants arrested today will have an initial appearance in United States District Court in Los Angeles this afternoon.

This investigation was conducted by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Gangs (LAMTFVG), which is comprised of LAPD detectives and FBI agents.

Considerable assistance was provided during today’s operation by the following agencies: Los Angeles County Probation; California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation—Division of Adult Parole; and the Department of Child & Family Services.

The federal defendants listed above will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. Defendants charged by the state will be prosecuted by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The LAMTFG is one of dozens of FBI Safe Streets Task Forces situated throughout the United States, funded for the purpose of assisting local police in identifying and addressing violent crime in America.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.