A lawyer served as a key facilitator for a brutal Mexican Mafia racketeering plot primarily based in Los Angeles County jails, “looking down” authorities informers and passing notes between members whereas serving to fund the West Coast. of prisons, a prosecutor instructed a federal jury on Wednesday.
a protection lawyer Gabriel Zendezas-Chávez Stated that he has been falsely accused by Mafia members of looking for to melt his personal prison circumstances, and that his prominence throughout the gang stems not from the crimes however from his expertise as a lawyer, who’ve lengthy Had helped free the mafia chief, who was serving a life sentence for medicine. ,
“Mr. Chavez’s identify unfold like wildfire. They thought, ‘He is the one who can get us out,'” stated Meghan Blanco, a prison protection lawyer primarily based in Laguna Niguel, California. “That is what Mr. Chavez was doing in late 2013 that put him on the radar of legislation enforcement.”
assistant US lawyer Gregory BernsteinNonetheless, stated Chavez’s standing as a lawyer gave him important entry to prisons and prisons, which he misused to go notes, distribute medicine, and commit homicide and extortion plots amongst jailed mafia members. Tried to make it handy. Chavez was “a key part of this community of illicit communications” that threatened different gang members from testifying in opposition to Mafia members, Bernstein stated, and “performed a useful position within the success of the Mexican Mafia.”
With 140 members, the Mexican Mafia is the controlling group for many Latino road gangs, together with the MS-13 and the Surenos gang.
“The Mexican mafia didn’t need Surenos to cooperate in opposition to them, to tell on their prison actions. So Chavez used his expertise as a lawyer to search out out who was collaborating … Surenos’ sufferer To what the Mexican mafia believed to be a authorities ally, like Sureno named ‘Hazard’, Bernstein stated.
Legal professionals’ opening assertion Wednesday afternoon earlier than a US District Choose George Wu Los Angeles launched the primary trial in opposition to the Mexican mafia in two prison indictments unveiled in 2018, together with Jose “Fox” Landa-Rodriguez, which prosecutors stated management LA prisons from the within. Zendejas-Chávez was amongst 83 individuals who had been charged, and prosecutors ousted them of their press announcement, saying that attorneys are “significantly beneficial members of the operation as a result of attorney-client privileges shield criminals from legislation enforcement.” Can function a protect to cover exercise.”
Federal brokers dubbed the investigation “Operation Soiled Thirds”, a reference to a tax imposed by the Mexican Mafia on inmates not affiliated with gangs attempting to promote narcotics to prisons.
Chavez, a licensed lawyer in California, has been out of jail on bond since 2008, however is required to put on an ankle monitor. The State Bar added a warning to his lawyer web page saying he has been charged with a felony, however the indictment hasn’t fully impeded his apply. Final October, his alma mater Irvine College Faculty of Legislation featured him as a keynote speaker at an info session for potential college students hosted on Zoom. Dean of the Cerritos-based, for-profit faculty, George Lealinstructed Legislation & Crime that they didn’t know that Chavez was beneath federal indictment when he was invited to talk on the occasion.
“Mr. Chavez was invited to debate his private expertise as a pupil in legislation college and his efforts to attempt to go the California bar examination. He instructed neither me nor my workers about his indictment. Knowledgeable,” Leal stated in an e mail. “Given his proper to presumption of his innocence, I count on you to report precisely to the extent that I confirmed above that it’s related to his indictment and subsequent trial. Is.”
Chavez has been charged with 4 crimes that accuse him of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana; Conspiracy to violate the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act; and aiding and selling possession with intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine.
In his almost 20-minute opening, Bernstein stated that Chávez took benefit of his lawyer-client privilege and “desired to have interaction in probably the most excessive types of Mexican Mafia violence”, together with gang contempt and murders. She was He labored with Landa-Rodriguez “not as a lawyer, however as his prison confederate,” Bernstein stated, and hosted conferences of the Mexican Mafia in his legislation workplace.
Blanco described a lot of the proof from prosecutors as shoddy or just not, together with an allegation that Chavez was paid $200 to fly to Colorado on the federal Supermaxx in Florence, Colorado. The jail was meant to place $400 on the books of the 2 males imprisoned. He stated such deposits are just about inconceivable.
Blanco additionally previewed a stunning protection witness concerned in his personal prolific, gang-related trial: David “Lil’ Dave” SantillionThe president of the Mongol Bike Membership, who’s accused in a separate case of secretly working with federal brokers throughout the 2018 racketeering trial of the Mongols.
Chávez has been accused of serving to to facilitate an extortion scheme by the Mafia in opposition to the Mongols, however Blanco stated that Centillion would testify that “he has no thought who Chávez is” and that federal brokers had been attempting to drum up one. Regardless of the efforts of She referred to as the plot “an actual attractive story” that might land investigators “on the quilt of” new York Instances both LA InstancesIt wasn’t true, Blanco stated, however it was “one thing that the brokers had held so far.”
Wednesday was the primary witness Christina Alanis, an worker of the maximum-security Pelican Bay State Jail, who described how Chavez tried to deliver a be aware contained in the jail in 2014, however was stopped by a guard. He behaved like he was going to place the be aware in a protected, Alanis stated, However then he put it again in his pocket and instructed the guards that he did not belief them. He ended up breaking the be aware, the worker testified, and he thought it “regarded very unusual as to what was so vital on a bit of paper.”
“By no means earlier than have I seen somebody so decided to do away with a bit of paper,” Alanis stated.
“In your 11 years working at Pelican Bay, have you ever ever seen anybody else try to have interaction in the identical kind of conduct that defendant Chavez did?” Requested Assistant US Lawyer Greg Marmaro,
“No, I do not. It regarded very suspicious,” replied Alanis.
Blanco insisted in his cross-examination that Alanis “has no thought what was on that piece of paper.”
Testimony continues Thursday at 9:30 a.m. The trial is predicted to final three weeks.
(Picture: Picture by Meghan Kniff of Legislation & Crime)
Have a tip we should always know? [email protected]