No. 2 Defendant in Federal Indictment Targeting Coalition of Three Latino Street Gangs Pleads Guilty to RICO and Narcotics Offenses
LOS ANGELES – A gang member who helped manage a coalition of three rival street gangs in Northeast Los Angeles that were brought together by orders issued by a member of the Mexican Mafia pleaded guilty today to federal charges and admitted being a primary supplier of narcotics to the criminal enterprise.
Santos Zepeda, also known as “Slim,” 33, of Glendale, a senior member of the Frogtown gang, pleaded guilty this morning to conspiring to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and conspiring to traffic methamphetamine.
Zepeda was among 22 defendants named two years ago in a federal racketeering indictment that outlined how Mexican Mafia member Arnold Gonzales ordered the unification of three street gangs that were traditional rivals. The “peace treaty” imposed by Gonzales in 2010 brought together the Frogtown, Toonerville and Rascals gangs, which worked together to control the narcotics trade and other illegal activities in an area that ran along the Los Angeles River from Elysian Park nearly to Burbank.
Because he was incarcerated in Pelican Bay State Prison after being convicted of murder, Gonzales appointed another Frogtown gang member, Jorge Grey, to be his emissary on the streets, according to the indictment. Zepeda served as Grey’s top lieutenant, provided narcotics to the racketeering enterprise, and coordinated the collection of “taxes” imposed on street-level drug dealers.
Zepeda pleaded guilty this morning before United States District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez, who is scheduled to sentence the defendant on January 22.
As a result of the guilty pleas entered today, Zepeda faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison and a statutory maximum penalty of life without parole.
The RICO indictment targeting the Arnold Gonzales Organization is the result of Operation “Gig ‘em,” an investigation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Violent Crime Impact Team; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Correctional Safety, Special Service Unit; the Glendale Police Department; and the Los Angeles Police Department.
After Gonzales took control of the three gangs, he exercised his authority through Grey and criminal associates that included Zepeda, according to the indictment. The organization generated revenue through extortion, specifically the imposition of taxes on the gangs and others who distributed narcotics in the territory controlled by the criminal enterprise. Members of the racketeering conspiracy allegedly implemented Gonzales’ orders, imposed discipline on those who attempted to violate the orders or contest the power of the enterprise, and collected firearms that were used to enforce their authority.
The indictment details numerous transactions involving narcotics and firearms, and also contains charges related to two shootings allegedly committed against individuals who defied the rules imposed by Gonzales and his associates.
Out of the 22 defendants named in the indictment, 11 have pleaded guilty. The remaining 11 defendants, including Grey, are scheduled to go on trial on March 5, 2018.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Carol Alexis Chen and Alexander B. Schwab of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Central District of California