Death Penalty Possible For SF Gang Members Arrested On Racketeering And Murder Allegations

A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted 14 Sureños gang members for alleged racketeering and murder in San Francisco on Thursday, a district attorney said.

The gang members named in the indictment are alleged members of the 19th Street Sureños gang and the associated 16th Street Sureños gang, U.S. District Attorney Melinda Haag and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Clark Settles said.

Thirteen of the defendants were arrested on Wednesday in a joint law enforcement operation that took place in San Francisco and Daly City, according to the district attorney.

Defendant Alberto Torres was to be arrested shortly after the other 13 defendants, the district attorney said.

All 14 defendants were charged in a 16-count indictment issued by the grand jury on Mar. 6 and unsealed on Thursday, according to Haag.

The 13 defendants in federal custody made their initial appearances Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge, the Honorable Nathanael Cousins.

Twelve of the 14 men named in the indictment are San Francisco residents and all 14 defendants are between the ages of 24 and 35.

Orlando “Chisto” Carlos Hernandez, 31, is an Oakland resident and Weston “Cartoon” Venegas, 24, is a resident of Daly City, according to Haag.

San Francisco residents indicted were 25-year-old Eduardo “Clumsy” Alvarez, 26-year-old Elias “Kiko” Chavez, 29-year-old Luis “Lonely” Cid-Salinas, 24-year-old Ignacio “Nacho” Cruz, 27-year-old Juan Carlos “Lil Ghost” Garcia-Gomez, 33-year-old Jairo “Joker” Hernandez, 35-year-old Jusef “Boo” Nathan, 29-year-old Rogelio “Payaso” Real, 31-year-old Mario “Caballo,” Serrano, 32-year-old Alberto “Taz” Torres, 26-year-old Carlos “Malo” Vasquez, and 24-year-old Michael “Lil Rocks” or “Rocks” Viera, according to Haag.

The charges arise from the defendants’ participation as members and associates in the racketeering enterprise alleged as the 19th Street Sureños, Haag said.

The defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, according to the district attorney.

Additionally, they are charged with using firearms in furtherance of violent crime, Haag said.

The 19th Street Sureños gang constitutes a racketeering enterprise, according to the indictment, and its members and associates committed crimes such as murder, robbery, narcotics trafficking, obstruction of justice, and tampering with witnesses to further the enterprise, Haag said.

The district attorney said that defendants Jairo Hernandez and Carlos Vasquez have been charged with one count of murder in aid of racketeering committed on Aug. 30, 2011.

Jairo Hernandez and Carlos Vasquez are subject to the death penalty, Haag said. The court would impose a death penalty sentence only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, according to Haag.

While the two men are eligible for the death penalty for their participation in murder, the decision to seek the death penalty against either of them remains pending, according to the district attorney.

All 14 defendants face up to life imprisonment, Haag said.

Two other defendants, Ignacio Cruz and Elias Chavez have been charged with four counts of attempted murder on Jan. 4, 2014.

Additionally, defendants Albert Torres and Michael Viera are charged with two counts each of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering on May 31, 2013, according to the district attorney’s office.

Haag said defendant Eduardo Alvarez has also been charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, in connection with incidents on Sept. 1 and Sep. 8, 2013.

The joint law enforcement operation that brought these 14 people into custody included the San Francisco Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Secret Service, Daly City Police Department, and the U.S. Marshals Service, the district attorney said.

Homeland Security Investigations and the San Francisco Police Department initiated the investigation in 2010, according to the district attorney.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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