O.C. gang leader is sentenced to 14 years

Times Staff Writer

Peter “Sana” Ojeda, the reputed Mexican Mafia godfather who once controlled Latino street gangs across Orange County, was sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison for violating federal racketeering and narcotics laws.

“We believe it is adequate both in terms of punishment and the deterrent effect to other would-be criminals,” Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said regarding the sentence imposed in Santa Ana by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter.

Ojeda, 64, of La Habra, was arrested in 2005 following a two-year investigation into the Orange County drug-dealing enterprise of the Mexican Mafia, in which he was identified as a member.

In September, Ojeda, who authorities said controlled the drug trade of local Latino street gangs using strong-arm tactics, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and conspiring to distribute illegal narcotics. One of his top lieutenants, Jose Becerra, 39, of Placentia, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in August and was sentenced Monday to 37 months in prison.

Ojeda, believed by authorities to have run a criminal organization for about 30 years, is said to have introduced the system of using street gang members to extort “taxes” from drug dealers. The method has become widespread throughout Southern California and has been exported to other states, aiding in the Mexican Mafia’s transformation over a generation from primarily a prison gang into one on the streets.