The FBI busts prison gang members for smuggling drugs, cell phones and orders to kill

The FBI busts prison gang members for smuggling drugs, cell phones and orders to kill

SANTA CLARA COUNTY – After a multi-month, wide-ranging law enforcement investigation, two dozen San Jose–based members and associates of Nuestra Familia, a violent prison and street gang, face dozens of felony charges ranging from conspiracy to smuggle drugs, weapons and cell phones into jail,  up to attempted murder.

“Operation Red October” – named for the gang’s colors and the month of a major raid – led to the arrest and seizure of thousands of dollars in illicit cash, methamphetamines, guns, and coded gang communications called “kites.” Some kites included organizational charts, explicit directions on what kind of weapons should be in their personal arsenals, and the deadline for killing someone.

The suspects, some of whom had street monikers such as Pistol, Monster and Bam Bam, could face major prison time if convicted. Their trial dates are scheduled to begin April 13. Five of the charged suspects remain fugitives.

For months, the FBI’s Santa Clara County Violent Gang Task Force reviewed hundreds of coded gang writings, and interviewed high-ranking Nuestra Familia sources. The investigation revealed that incarcerated Nuestra Familia members were using the kites – smuggled in and out using prisoners’ body cavities – to direct street gang members to commit robberies, sell drugs and handle “removals” – gang code for killings.

The investigation was a collaboration of the DA’s Office with the FBI, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, San Jose Police Department, Campbell Police Department, Santa Clara County Probation, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, the DEA, Mountain View CHP, the Regional Auto Theft Task Force, and the Santa Clara, Milpitas and Gilroy Police Departments.

Suspects Dominguez, Gonzalez, Varela, Garcia, Rivera, Ochoa, Avila, Garcia, Rodriguez,  Lee,  Rodriguez, and Barba.

Suspects Dominguez, Gonzalez, Varela, Garcia, Rivera, Ochoa, Avila, Garcia, Rodriguez, Lee, Rodriguez, and Barba.

The suspects arrested, or still wanted* in the operation were (top photo) Armando “Gino” Silva, 44; Benjamin “Big Happy” Mendez, 37; Carlos Roman, 40; Cassey Klauer*, 27; Colleen Dunn, 51; Daniel “Bird” Millich, 27; Diego “Chucky” Mendoza*, 25; Fidadelpho “Lil Sav” Ortiz, 17; Frank “Digit” Cruz, 29; Fred “Maton” Macias*, 35; Freddie DeLaCruz, 33; and Herman “Chango” Sifuentes, 34.

Also arrested or wanted* (second photo): Jacob “Tank” Dominguez, 29; James “Pistol” Gonzalez, 33; Jesus “Yoosh” Varela, 30; Juan “Monster” Garcia, 22; Juanita Rivera, 48; Karlee Ochoa*, 35; Peter “Payaso” Avila, 29; Raymond “Oldies” Garcia, 35; Rodolpho “Zeke” Rodriguez, 36; Shawn Vernon “Bam-Bam” Lee, 34; Sonya “Giggles” Rodriguez*, 49; and Steven “P-Nut” Barba, 28.

Other FBI investigations uncovered a male suspect who was found to be manufacturing firearms without a permit. Strict guidelines are set to help prevent convicted felons from possessing weapons, as well as a cry from parents to help keep guns out of young kids’ hands. A felony indictment was filed against Jeffery Lawrence Mauk, aka Vito Genovesse, on Jan 28, 2015. The indictment charges Mauk with seven counts of being an unregistered manufacturer of guns, producing short barreled rifles, while pretending to be a Marshal working with the United States Marshal Service. Mauk was found to be in possession of several firearms as far back as Sept of 2013. The next continued court date is scheduled for 9:30 AM on May 13, 2015 for a second status hearing before the Honorable District Judge Lucy H. Koh in the San Jose Federal Courthouse, in courtroom 8 on the 4th floor.

Cases in which felons obtain guns – like 51-year-old Craig Anthony Bell, who is being charged with PC 422, threats of violence, with prior allegations under PC 667(b)-(I)/1170.12 – can often turn deadly. On March 14, 2014, Bell committed the crime when he threatened to cause great bodily harm or injury to others. However, without access to a gun, the threats were limited to just a verbal confrontation, and Bell was found to be under the influence of a known hallucinogenic drug.

While at 1300 block Kane Court in San Jose, Bell had become mentally unstable and began to talk about killing people. The SJPD responded to the scene and soon found that Bell was in possession of a contraband drug, cocaine. He reportedly began to feel chest pains once placed inside a transport vehicle for booking into the Santa Clara County Main Jail. Bell was held for a 72 hour mental evaluation in the booking process. A family member had called police to report that their father was destroying the house and had been smoking meth, and that they were afraid of what he might do.

The next court hearing for Bell will be held at the San Jose Hall of Justice in Dept 44 at 9:00 AM on May 4, 2015.

The FBI busts prison gang members for smuggling drugs, cell phones and orders to kill was last modified: January 14th, 2019 by admin
Categories: Santa Clara

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Amy Nilson

Amy L. Nilson is a freelance journalist specializing in criminal and environmental matters. She has over 5+years experience writing investigative reports, featured journal articles, and has taken on writing fiction and non-fiction prose. She writes for CrimeVoice,, and other news publications. She may be reached at for any comments or suggestions, you might have.