Judge denies bail for grocery magnate

Times Staff Writer

George Torres, the grocery magnate indicted on racketeering charges last month, was denied bail in federal court Monday, despite having offered “one of the largest secured bonds ever posted” in the region, according to court filings.

Torres, 50, head of the Numero Uno market chain in Los Angeles, and his seven co-defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges laid out in the 59-count indictment two weeks ago.

His attorney, Brian Sun, said they “will be vigorously contesting the charges.” The court papers did not specify how much Torres was willing to post.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Wistrich cited the seriousness of the charges, including conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, assault and facilitation of narcotics trafficking as the reason Torres should remain in custody. Manuel Torres, his brother, also was detained without bail; the other six defendants are out on bond.


The legal battle over the detentions cast fresh allegations of intrigue over Torres as well as the witnesses arrayed against him.

In court filings, Torres argued that the case was based on “fabricated testimony of cooperating witnesses serving lengthy prison sentences who are seeking to curry favor with government in exchange for leniency.”

Chief among them, the defense says, is Raul del Real, a drug trafficker who was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for distributing 1,300 pounds of cocaine in the Baltimore area.

Meanwhile, prosecutors alleged in court papers that Torres has ties to the Mexican Mafia, had already tried to intimidate witnesses and wrote a $20,000 check as “hush money” to Del Real’s mother. She did not take the money, but rather reported it to agents, authorities said.

As for the risk of his disappearing, prosecutors say, Torres has used false identification and frequently travels on a private jet to Mexico, where he has family. And Torres is appealing a deportation order that resulted from a state conviction for carrying a concealed weapon, records show.

But his legal team argued in court filings that his wealth, including about $20 million in properties and businesses worth “many tens of millions of dollars,” was all tied to Los Angeles.

“Mr. Torres is not going to walk away from this considerable equity -- the product of a lifetime of unrelenting effort. He is going to fight these charges, asking only that he be released pre-trial so he can prepare his defense with his counsel and be with his family.”

Torres even offered to hire an independent security firm, Risk Control Strategies, to monitor him 24 hours a day at his home in Arcadia.

The firm is run by Doug Kane, a 27-year veteran of the FBI, and is staffed by retired law enforcement officers.

Wistrich didn’t allow it. He wrote: “Given that the defendant is facing a lengthy sentence if convicted, and that his ability to stay in the United States is uncertain, defendant’s motivation to flee if the case appears to be going unfavorably would be substantial.”

Torres faces up to 65 years in federal prison if convicted on all counts. The case was sent to the court of U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, where the bail issue probably will be revived.