Friday, July 08, 2016

Seven Los Angeles Men Charged with Racketeering and for Firebombing African-American Residences

All defendants are members and associates of the Big Hazard or Hazard Grande (Hazard) street gang, 

Posted by CotoBlogzz

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA -   Seven Los Angeles men were charged in a 10-count indictment unsealed today June 7, 2016 with participating in the 2014 firebombing of residences of African Americans living in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles.  The defendants were also charged for their roles in a racketeering enterprise that used violence and intimidation to control the perceived territory of the Big Hazard street gang.    

On June 22, 2016, a federal grand jury returned an indictment under seal charging the defendants, all of whom are members and associates of the Big Hazard or Hazard Grande (Hazard) street gang, with a variety of violations stemming from the racketeering enterprise and related to the alleged firebombing that occurred on May 12, 2014, which was intended to drive African Americans from the Ramona Gardens Housing Development (RGHD).  The RGHD is a federally and city funded housing development that is occupied primarily by Hispanic residents and located in Boyle Heights.

Carlos Hernandez, aka Creeper and Rider, 31; Jose Saucedo, aka Lil’ Moe, 22; Francisco Farias, aka Bones, 25; Joseue Garibay, aka Malo, 23; Edwin Felix, aka Boogie, 23; Jonathan Portillo, aka Pelon, 21; and Joel Matthew Monarrez, aka Gallo, 21, were charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights; conspiracy to use fire and carry explosives to commit another federal felony; attempted arson of federal property; using fire and carrying explosives to commit another federal felony; aiding and abetting; violent crime in aid of racketeering and interference with housing rights.  Hernandez and Farias were also charged with possessing, using, carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, and Felix was also charged with making a false statement to the FBI.

The indictment alleges that, in early May, Hernandez led a Hazard meeting at a location in the gang’s territory near the RGHD which was attended by the other defendants.  During the meeting, Hernandez allegedly told the group that they were going to use Molotov cocktails to firebomb residential units in the RGHD that were occupied by African-American families.  According to the indictment, Hernandez allegedly told the defendants during the meeting that the purpose of the firebombing was to “get the n****** out of the neighborhood,” or words to that effect.  

On Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014, Hernandez instructed the other defendants to meet at a location in Hazard territory to prepare for the attack.  At the meeting, Hernandez distributed materials to be used during the firebombings, including disguises, gloves and other materials, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that Hernandez instructed the other defendants to split into groups, break victims’ windows in order to make clean entries, then ignite the firebombs and throw them into the victims’ residences in order to maximize damage.  The defendants also took precautions in order to avoid detection by law enforcement.

Evidence gathered by investigators indicates this attack was motivated by hatred stemming from racial bias.  Most of the victims of the firebombing were African-American families who were at home with their children, many of whom were minors.

According to the indictment, the defendants were members and associates of the Hazard street gang, a criminal organization whose members engaged in, among other things, robbery, extortion, witness intimidation, trafficking and conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances.

The indictment further alleges that Hazard gang members promote the reputation of the criminal enterprise among other Hispanic gangs in Southern California and inside of state and federal prisons by carrying out Hazard leaders’ orders against rival gang members and perceived enemies.  Further, Hazard members maintain control and authority over its territory, often through threats, intimidation, civil rights crimes and other acts of violence, including murder.

Hazard members are known to retaliate against rival gang members who challenge Hazard’s authority or who fail to pay debts owed to Hazard members and associates.  The indictment further alleges Hazard members expose and punish fellow Hazard members who violate the gang’s rules, as well as expose and punish potential witnesses to crimes by Hazard members and associates who are suspected of cooperating with law enforcement or disrespecting Hazard members.  The indictment further alleges that Hazard members impose unwritten rules regarding the control of its territory, including that African-American residents reside in RGHD at the pleasure of the gang and that they face retaliation and/or expulsion from RGHD if they offend Hazard members.

The indictment alleges that the defendants and others conspired to injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate African American residents in violation of their constitutional rights, including the right to occupy a dwelling free from injury, intimidation and interference based on race and color.  The indictment alleges Hazard members would spray paint or “tag” gang monikers and symbols on businesses and residences, obtain and possess guns and other dangerous weapons in order to enforce the authority of the Hazard gang, intimidate rivals and residents and attack rivals and African Americans, among other things.

The defendants and others allegedly met to discuss ways to threaten, intimidate, and attack African Americans in their residences, on the streets and elsewhere, to deter them from living in Ramona Gardens because of their race and color.  Saucedo would confront African-American residents, including mixed-race children, and individually or collectively threaten them by telling them they were not welcome in Hazard gang territory, namely, RGHD, and that they risked harm if they remained as residents.

The investigation was conducted by agents and detectives with the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Division; the LAFD; the ATF; and the FBI Los Angeles Division’s Civil Rights Squad.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mack E. Jenkins and Douglas M. Miller of the Central District of California and Trial Attorneys Patricia Sumner and Julia Gegenheimer of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.

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