After an approximately three-month trial, four Nuestra Familia gang members have been convicted for their roles in a wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy that involved several murders, drug trafficking and firearms offenses, among other related offenses.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch of the Northern District of California and Special Agent in Charge John Bennett of the FBI’s San Francisco Division made the announcement.
Henry Cervantes, 52, aka Happy, of Lodi, California; Alberto Larez, 48, aka Bird, of Salinas, California; Jaime Cervantes, 33, aka Hennessy, of San Mateo, California; and Andrew Cervantes, 60, aka Mad Dog, of Stockton, California, were each convicted today of racketeering conspiracy and other offenses. In addition, Larez was convicted of murder in aid of racketeering, use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence causing death; Jaime Cervantes and Larez were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering; Jaime Cervantes was convicted of two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit a robbery affecting interstate commerce, robbery affecting interstate commerce and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence; Henry Cervantes and Jaime Cervantes were convicted of use of fire to commit a felony, conspiracy to obstruct justice and obstruction of justice; and Henry and Andrew Cervantes and Larez were convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances.
According to evidence presented at trial, Nuestra Familia is a prison gang that originally formed in the California state prison system in the 1960s. Nuestra Familia leaders control and direct the gang’s criminal activities both inside and outside of the prison system.
According to evidence presented at trial, the defendants were members or associates of the federal branch of the Nuestra Familia, which was controlled by two principal overseers incarcerated in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), one of whom was Andrew Cervantes while he was serving a 210-month sentence for a 1999 racketeering conviction. Larez and Henry Cervantes were senior gang members who reported to Andrew Cervantes. In 2010, Henry Cervantes and Larez were released from the BOP after serving sentences for racketeering conspiracy convictions in 2004 involving the distribution of controlled substances on behalf of Nuestra Familia. Larez recruited individuals, including Jaime Cervantes, to commit crimes on behalf of the gang and Henry Cervantes supervised the criminal activities of the gang in Oakland, California.
From approximately fall 2010 through March 2013, under the supervision of Henry Cervantes and Larez, members and associates of Nuestra Familia engaged in the trafficking of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin and committed robberies to raise money for themselves and the gang. At the direction of Andrew Cervantes, Larez instructed his subordinates to send proceeds from their criminal activities by Western Union to the commissary accounts of gang leaders incarcerated in several BOP facilities, including the account of Andrew Cervantes. Larez communicated with Andrew Cervantes primarily through prison phone calls and correspondence using coded language.
Between May and August 2011, Larez and Jaime Cervantes robbed and assaulted a woman making a bank deposit of proceeds from a gas station, then robbed the same woman at gunpoint at the gas station, and stabbed a suspected rival gang member. All of these crimes were planned and orchestrated by Larez, whose wife worked at the same gas station.
In September 2011, Henry Cervantes stabbed two victims to death at an apartment in Oakland and ordered Jaime Cervantes and another gang member to burn the bodies at the apartment to cover up evidence, which they proceeded to do.
In January 2012, Jaime Cervantes and two other members committed a home invasion robbery of a drug dealer. During the robbery, Jaime Cervantes beat one victim over the head with a baseball bat and another victim was shot.
In August 2012, Larez and two other gang members traveled to San Jose, California, and lured another gang member suspected of cooperating with law enforcement to a “meeting,” where he was shot to death while sitting in his vehicle.
In late 2012, while incarcerated at U.S. Penitentiary (USP) Lewisburg in Pennsylvania, Andrew Cervantes ordered via coded letters the murder of an inmate at USP McCreary in Kentucky. In March 2013, the inmate – whom Andrew Cervantes believed had violated gang rules – was assaulted and stabbed by two Nuestra Familia inmates in the prison dining facility and survived.
Eight co-defendants previously pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other offenses in connection with this case.
The FBI Oakland Resident Agency investigated the case with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of California, with assistance from the BOP. The Santa Clara County, California, District Attorney’s Office; Oakland Police Department; San Jose Police Department; Red Bluff, California, Police Department; Livermore, California, Police Department; Alameda County, California, Sheriff’s Office; Tehama County, California, District Attorney’s Office; and Tehama County Sheriff’s Office also assisted in the investigation.
Trial Attorney Robert S. Tully of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Frentzen and Joseph M. Alioto of the Northern District of California are prosecuting the case with assistance from Kevin Costello, Courtney Fisher, Melissa Dorton, Daniel Charlier-Smith, Lance Libatique and Lauren Hipolito