MONTEBELLO – A joint Federal, State and Local task force dubbed “Operation Sudden Impact” arrested and charged 38 gangsters in murder, weapon, and drug charges that authorities hope will break up a major street gang and reduce the impact of the drugs and violence the residents of Montebello and neighboring communities have been facing.
According to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, this two year project began with a string of cold case murder investigations, and ultimately involved the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), The California Department of Corrections Special Services Unit, the LA County Sheriffs, and the Montebello Police. Today’s arrest of ten suspects wrapped up the apprehension phase. Together with the other arrests, federal prosecutors will prosecute a “RICO” case, based on the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations act, which provides extended criminal and civil penalties for actions performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization, which can be anything from a street gang to a business operating as a front for money laundering or other illegal activities. 9 of the defendants will be charged under RICO, while they and the others will be charged under other federal or state statutes.
The RICO indictment alleges that the Southside Montebello gang had established a “Killer Squad” within the members and maintained an arsenal of weapons to challenge rivals, commit violent acts, and support a drug trade operation, intimidating the people of Montebello.
One of the incidents that triggered the operation was investigation of the murder of a man and his son in 2008. A graduation party that had Southside Montebello Gang members in attendance saw a fist fight break out between them and a rival gang. The rivals left, but soon returned armed, and shot into the party, presumably at gang members, but killing Albert Garcia and his 12-year-old son Juan. 27-year-old Joe John Dorantes was arrested and charged with two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and a special circumstances charge of committing these crimes to further the activities of a criminal street gang. Dorantes faces life without parole, or possibly the death penalty. His preliminary hearing is to be held on May 22nd.
27-year-old Jimmy Valenzuela was said to be a founding member of the Southside Montebello “Killer Squad”, and was charged with the execution style killings of rival gang members in 2007 and 2010. He is charged with two counts of murder and a special circumstance charge for multiple murders. He also faces life without parole, or possibly the death penalty. 20-year-old Roger Gutierrez, 23-year-old Ernest Miachel Ortiz, and 21-year-old Rudy Leonardo Escarcega were charged with the murder of Reggie Rodriguez Park, a rival gang member.
Another Southside Montebello gang member, Edward James Dewey was sentenced in October of 2012 on charges of voluntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon in a shooting death. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 39 years.
The ten suspects arrested today included Tirzo Cangas, Edgar Solorzano, Oscar Garcia, and Michael Candelaria, all of Montebello. They face various charges for narcotics sales and possession and sales of assault and other weapons. The others taken into custody are all Southside Montbello gang members who are being charged under the federal RICO statute. Jolene Montoya, Carlos Hernandez, and Armando Alvarado all of Montebello, and Samuel Lopez of Diamond Bar, Joseph Elizarraras of Pico Rivera, Shant Karibloghossian, and Davit Babayan of Whittier will face federal drug and weapons charges under RICO. Already in custody were George Vera Sr., Robert Holguin, Karina Valdez, and Marla Vera, all of Montebello. Also being sought under the RICO indictment, but not yet in custody are Julian Merrit of Montery Park and Lena Doktorcyzk of Pico Rivera. They all face potential life sentences in federal prison.
Montebello Police Chief Kevin McClure said “These arrests will make a significant impact on a Montebello street gang that has not only terrorized the City of Montebello, but also the surrounding communities. This was an extraordinary investigative effort by all the members of the Montebello Police Department and our partners. This investigation would not have been possible without the help and partnership of the ATF, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Corrections.”
Whittier Daily News: Feds nail South Side Montebello street gang and ‘killer squad’ clique
NBC Southern California: Arrests, Firearms Seizures in Montebello Gang Sweep