Feds: Mexican Mafia partnered with a drug cartel to use LA street gangs to sell drugs, arms

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Tuesday morning raids across Los Angeles County nabbed nearly two-dozen members of a powerful L.A. street gang including some alleged members of the Mexican Mafia prison gang and a major drug cartel from Michoacán, Mexico, according to law enforcement.

Fourteen members of the local Florencia-13 street gang were taken into custody, and eight members of the Mexican Mafia and La Familia drug cartel were arrested. Federal agents and officials said they interrupted what could have become a “merger” between the Mexican Mafia and the La Familia drug cartel.

“La Familia sought what it called free reign to sell methamphetamine to Southern California,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney Andre Birotte, Jr.

Thirteen defendants are named in a federal grand jury indictment. It alleges that four people with direct links to La Familia made a $150,000 “down payment” in 2011 to the Mexican Mafia leadership for the “Project.”

The indictment states that La Familia members and associates "would provide thousands of dollars in drug proceeds and pound-quantities of methamphetamine and marijuana at a discounted price to members and associates of the Mexican Mafia."

In exchange, the cartel would be able to sell narcotics on Southland streets without retaliation or paying taxes to local street gangs that are controlled by Mexican Mafia members in prison.

Federal ATF and DEA agents seized approximately 600 pounds of meth estimated to be worth $19 million and more than 30 guns.

Thirteen defendants were charged with numerous crimes, including conspiracy to distribute meth and marijuana.

A second indictment unsealed Tuesday names 31 other defendants involved in the South L.A. street gang Florencia 13. Several members of the gang have risen through the ranks to become leaders of the Mexican Mafia, according to federal agents.

The three-year investigation into the Mafia-La Familia project started with a tip from a criminal informant about the Florencia street gang. It claims territory off Florence Street and operates widely through South L.A. and into Compton and Huntington Park.

“We’ve had numerous murders committed by those gang members,” said L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.

The indictment alleges violations of federal racketeering laws and drug charges by distributing meth, marijuana, and heroin and cocaine possession. It also alleges the gang members ran an arms trafficking business.

About a hundred Florencia 13 gang members were indicted in 2007 in a separate case. Law enforcement officials say the new arrests and indictments are a second generation of gang leaders.

“We in law enforcement have to be nimble,” said Birotte. “As gangs evolve and mutate, if you will, we have to evolve as well.”

The bust was made by a cross-jurisdiction task force of federal drug and firearm agents collaborating with L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, the Pasadena Police Department, the Long Beach Police Department, Montebello Police Department, and California and federal prison agencies.

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