Two leaders in an Ontario street gang were convicted Monday for their part in running what authorities described as a criminal operation responsible for violent crimes and the distribution of narcotics such as meth and heroin in the city, prosecutors said.
Armando "Mando" Barajas, 50, and Juan "Nito" Gil, 43, were found guilty by a jury on federal racketeering charges connected with the operation of the Black Angels gang in the San Bernardino County city, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.
These were the latest in a string of nearly 60 convictions of people linked to the gang, including the gang's enforcers and drug dealers — all stemming from an indictment charging violations of the RICO, or Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations, Act, prosecutors said.
U.S. Atty. Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement the gang's activity had highlighted the "heavy toll" gangs have on local neighborhoods, such as the Black Angels'-controlled turf in Ontario. But he said the convictions "demonstrate once again that the gang leaders and shot-callers responsible for that violence will be held accountable for their criminal conduct."
Prosecutors said Barajas, a resident of Pomona, was a top leader in the gang, responsible for the distribution of narcotics in the gang's territory. Gil, who was serving a 10-year prison term when he was indicted in 2010, served as a liaison responsible for handing out directions to others linked to the gang.
The Black Angels gang has existed in Ontario for more than 50 years, claiming the entire city as its turf and swelling to about 450 members, prosecutors said. The gang is aligned with the Mexican Mafia prison gang, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the gang's prime criminal activity was the distribution of narcotics and that gang leaders would extort drug dealers for so-called "taxes" in order to permit them to sell in gang territory. The gang would also smuggle narcotics into prisons.
Ontario Police Chief Eric Hopley said in the statement the convictions were the result of "scores of investigators and hundreds of man hours. The guilty verdicts are good news for both law enforcement and the citizens of Ontario."