Danny Roman, Mexican Mafia member and South L.A. gang chieftain, is stabbed to death in Corcoran
Danny Roman, a Mexican Mafia member who controlled swaths of South Los Angeles from various prison cells throughout California, was stabbed to death Wednesday at a substance abuse treatment facility in Corcoran, the state prison system said Thursday.
Around 11 a.m., two inmates — Raul Alvarado and Edward Cisneros — began stabbing Roman in the body and face, according to a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Roman, 64, was taken to the prison’s medical facility and pronounced dead.
Alvarado, 47, is a Mexican Mafia member from Lennox known as “Spy,” according to a source who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity. The source said Alvarado and Cisneros attacked Roman on the facility’s yard.
Alvarado is serving a life sentence for murder and has been in state custody since 1994, according to the corrections department. Cisneros, 31, is also serving a life sentence for murder and has been incarcerated since 2013. The two men have been placed in segregated housing while the corrections department and the Kings County district attorney investigate Roman’s killing.
Roman had been a state prisoner since 1985, when he began serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder, the department said.
Roman, known as “Popeye,” was the leader of Harpys, a Latino street gang in South Central Los Angeles. On May 16, 1988, three years after entering the state prison system, Roman was inducted into the Mexican Mafia, a Los Angeles police detective wrote in an affidavit seeking court permission to intercept Roman’s daughter’s phone calls.
The Mexican Mafia is a criminal syndicate of about 140 members, most of them incarcerated, which controls virtually every Latino street gang in Southern California.
As a member of the syndicate, authorities said in court documents, Roman was authorized to collect narcotics and extortion proceeds from not just his own gang but a panoply of others in South Los Angeles: 38th Street, 36th Street, Primera Flats, Playboys and East Side Trece, among others.
By 2012, Roman controlled a territory in South Los Angeles bordered by Alameda Street to the east, Western Avenue to the west, Washington Boulevard to the north and Imperial Highway to the south, according to a federal indictment charging 18 Harpys members and associates, including Roman’s daughter, Vianna, with racketeering, drug trafficking and various violent crimes.
Prosecutors painted Vianna Roman as her father’s surrogate, visiting him at a maximum-security wing in Pelican Bay State Prison and relaying orders to underlings in Los Angeles to extort, assault and kill. She pleaded guilty in 2014 to racketeering, drug trafficking and firearms offenses and is serving a 15-year sentence at a federal prison in Victorville.
Inside her market on Compton Avenue, Villamar Tortilleria y Carniceria, Vianna Roman met with her father’s lieutenants, discussed gangland politics and collected extortion payments, or “taxes,” LAPD Det. Richard Jaramillo wrote in an affidavit seeking a judge’s approval to tap her phone.
Gang members called it “the meat shop.” On the 25th of every month, Danny Roman’s emissaries collected $5,000 to $6,000 from 15 gangs in South Los Angeles and turned it over at the meat shop, Jaramillo wrote, citing intelligence from turncoats within Roman’s organization. Several informants told law enforcement that people had been “tortured, assaulted and murdered” inside the meat shop, the affidavit said.
A particularly rich prize for the Romans, Jaramillo wrote, was the Alameda Swap Meet, at the intersection of Alameda Street and Vernon Avenue in South Los Angeles. Extorting vendors at the flea market “generates an extreme amount of revenue for the Mexican Mafia,” Jaramillo wrote.
By 2012, the indictment charging his daughter said, Danny Roman had gained the exclusive right to shake down the swap meet. An underling drew up a list of resistant vendors, identifying the outstanding extortion payments as “union dues,” the indictment said.
Those who didn’t pay or contacted the police were evicted from the market or assaulted, according to the indictment. One Harpys member vowed to kill any vendor who cooperated with law enforcement, it said.
Danny Roman’s underlings, who couldn’t send money to his prison account without arousing suspicion, used fake names and enlisted girlfriends and wives to kick up his cut, Jaramillo wrote.
Before his daughter’s indictment, prison officials seized $24,000 from Danny Roman’s inmate trust account, suspecting it came from extortion and drug trafficking, the affidavit said. Prisoners can use money from their accounts to buy items at the commissary, such as snacks and hygiene products, that range in price from 25 cents to a few dollars.
Get breaking news, investigations, analysis and more signature journalism from the Los Angeles Times in your inbox.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.