Thursday, December 16, 2010

13 alleged members, associates of 'Raza Unida' gang charged with racketeering

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - An eight-count indictment charging 13 alleged members and associates of the Raza Unida street and prison gang with committing violent acts to support racketeering (VICAR) was unsealed on Thursday. This unsealed indictment was announced by the following agency heads: U. S. Attorney Jose Angel Moreno, Southern District of Texas; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Director John Morton; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge J. Dewey Webb; Inspector General John Moriarty of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Office of the Inspector General's Office (TDCJ-OIG); and Corpus Christi Police Department (CCPD) Chief Troy Riggs.

"This multi-agency effort will produce a safer community for our citizens," said U.S. Attorney Moreno. "We will continue to aggressively target gangs who prey upon our communities and ensure that they are brought to justice."

The following 13 defendants named in the indictment are now in federal custody: Preston Mascorro, 29; Karlos Bouchot, aka Karlos Gustavo Bouchot, 35; Rudy Rodriguez, 31; Martin Guardiola III, 35; Ricky Alejandro, 25; Israel Plazola, 26; Michael Ornelas, 31; Anthony Torres, 34; Jerome Aranda, 31; Johnny Joe Guerra, 33, Orlando Garcia, aka Orlando Amador Garcia, 32; Valerie Botello, 28; and Stephen Ayala, 34.

Violent street
gangs enable criminal activity and hold our communities hostage through fear and intimidation," said Morton. "By working closely with our law enforcement partners, ICE is committed to identifying, targeting and dismantling transnational gang enterprises."

Guerra and Aranda were arrested Dec. 14 without incident. Both appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge on Wednesday and have been ordered temporarily detained pending a detention hearing. The remaining 11 defendants, already in federal or state custody on other charges, appeared in federal court this morning. All 13 defendants have been ordered temporarily detained pending arraignment and a detention hearing set for Dec. 17.

The United States is seeking an order to detain all 13 defendants in federal custody without bond pending trial on the charges. All of the defendants have been residents of Corpus Christi and all are U.S. citizens, except for Plazola who is a Mexican national illegally residing in the United States.

"ATF along with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners are committed to fighting gang violence," said Webb. "We will continue to go after those who violate the law and will use all necessary resources to do so."

The indictment, returned under seal on Dec. 8, by a Corpus Christi grand jury, alleges that Mascorro, Bouchot, Rodriguez, Guardiola, Alejandro, Plazola, Ornelas and Torres were members and associates of a criminal organization commonly known as the Raza Unida. These gang members and associates function as a unit engaged in acts of violence including murder, robbery and narcotics trafficking. This violence is designed to maintain and increase the position of the Raza Unida gang. The series of violent offenses as alleged in the following counts one through four charges the various defendants with aiding racketeering to further the purpose of the Raza Unida.

Count 1: Bouchot and Rudy Rodriguez are accused of conspiring together in April to murder J. S.
Count 2: Rodriguez is accused of assaulting two persons - M. B. and V. G. - with a dangerous weapon on March 31.
Count 3: Alejandro and Anthony Torres are accused of assaulting D. L. with a dangerous weapon on Jan. 12.
Count 4: Mascorro, Guardiolas, Alejanadro, Plazola and Ornelas are charged together with the assault with a dangerous weapon of R. O. on May 1.
Count 5: Mascorro, Bouchot, Aranda, Guerra, Garcia and Botello are charged with conspiring together between November 2009 through May to distribute 5.66 kilograms of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine. A conviction for this offense carries a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison and not less than 10 years.
A conviction for VICAR carries a statutory maximum punishment of 20 years imprisonment without parole.

The next two counts of the indictment charge firearms offenses related to violent crimes previously alleged in the indictment. Upon conviction, they carry mandatory consecutive terms of imprisonment ranging from not less than seven years for count six, and not less than 10 years for count seven. Alejandro is charged in count six with possessing and brandishing a 9mm semi-automatic Beretta on May 1, in furtherance of the assault alleged in count four. Torres is charged with possessing and discharging a .40-caliber Beretta on Jan. 12, in furtherance of the assault with a deadly weapon offense alleged in count three.

Ayala, allegedly a previously convicted felon, is charged in the last count of the indictment with possessing three 12-guage shotguns. As a previously convicted felon, Ayala is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms. A conviction for this offense carries a statutory maximum penalty of not more than 10 years.

The three assault-with-a-deadly weapon charges arise from a home invasion in which a man was shot, and two other shootings at Corpus Christi nightclubs. The conspiracy-to-murder charge allegedly occurred at the (TDCJ) McConnell Unit Prison in Beeville, Texas, during a time when both defendants charged were confined there.

"Criminal organizations actively engaging in violent crime will aggressively be investigated both on the streets of and within the prisons of Texas," said Moriarty. "Prison fences will not be an obstacle to rooting out criminals that prey on the public."

During the course of the investigation leading to this indictment, agents and officers seized about six kilograms (13 lbs.) of crystal methamphetamine with an estimated street value of more than $300,000.

This ongoing multi-agency investigation has thus far resulted in 16 other convictions for federal offenses, including a car theft ring, drugs and firearms. These convictions are due to the continuing efforts of the following cooperating agencies: U.S. Attorney's Office, ICE's Homeland Security Investigations, ATF, CCPD, TDCJ-OIG and the Bee County District Attorney's Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Patterson, S. District of Texas, is prosecuting the case.

"The arrests and prosecution of these gang members represent a major setback to this extremely violent prison gang," said Riggs. "Today, Corpus Christi is a safer community as a result of the hard work and combined efforts of the many devoted local, state, and federal law enforcement officers who worked on this case. The success of this operation exemplifies the outstanding cooperation between the Corpus Christi Police Department and our partners in state and federal law enforcement, as well as the continuing support of the dedicated prosecutors of the U.S. Attorney's office."

The Raza Unida prison gang was formed in the late 1980s in the Texas prison system by Latino inmates; it operates inside and outside jail and prison facilities. This gang should not be confused with a political action group by the same name.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.

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