More than 1,300 local and federal law enforcement officers swooped down early this morning to serve warrants at 47 homes and apartments in Los Angeles. Forty four Avenues gang members and associates were arrested in the sweep.
Above: A press conference discussing the massive operation was held today outside LAPD Academy and included Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, Acting U.S. Attorney George Cardona and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich.
Alleged Cop Killer: Carlos "Stoney" Velasquez
The 222-page federal indictment is a story of murder, attempted murder, extortion, money laundering, intimidation and plots to smuggle drugs and cell phones into prisons.It also alleges that Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff Juan Escalante's accused shooter, Carlos "Stoney" Velasquez, admitted in wiretaps to a fellow gangster that he killed the 27-year-old deputy outside his Cypress Park home in retribution for the shooting death of his cousin Danny "Klever" Leon by Los Angeles Department Police Department officers in February of 2008. Escalante was getting into his car on his way to work when he was gunned down on August 2, 2008.
For months after the deputies killing, police wondered whether Escalante was killed because of his work at Men's Central Jail in Downtown LA or if it was a case of mistaken identity by gang members who were searching for gang rivals.
The indictment also alleges that, among other things, Mexican Mafia members were training new leaders of the Avenues gangsters to take over the drug dealing and extortion operations on Drew Street after dozens of its Drew Street clique members were picked up in the June 2008 take-down that netted Maria "Chata" Leon.
Leon is the reputed matriarch of a drug-dealing family of gangsters that included her sons and who terrorized the neighborhood for over two decades. In May, a federal judge sentenced Leon to eight years in federal prison. She plead guilty to two counts of racketeering and conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.
The indictment was a veritable "who's who" of Avenues gangsters that included such members of the Aguirre Mexican Mafia family as Rudy "Lil Psycho" Aguirre, his father Rudy Aguirre Sr. and cousin Richie "Lil Pee Wee" Aguirre, who is serving a life sentence in Kearn Valley State Prison for three murders he committed in the mid-1990s.
Richie Aguirre's older brother is Mexican Mafia member Alex "Pee Wee" Aguirre, who was indicted by the feds in the '90s, and has an Avenues clique called the Pee Wee Gangsters named after him.
In one of many creepy parts of the indictment, Rudy Aguirre Jr. and Rudy Aguirre Sr. met with a Mexican Mafia member in Pelican Bay State Prison, wanting permission to retaliate against a man they identified as "Boo Boo" because "Boo Boo" had not assisted an Avenues gang member who had been fatally injured during a shooting with a rival gang member and had not shown "sufficient respect" for the Aguirre family. The Mexican Mafia member authorized that "Boo Boo" should get a pounding for disrespecting the gang.
In another wiretapped interview, Rudy Aguirre Jr. said he would allow a gang member named Anthony Rodriguez to continue to work for Richie Aguirre, who was controlling drugs in county jail from his prison cell, once he got out of county jail, if he was not restricted to a supervised halfway house. Rodriguez said he would stay out of the halfway house by claiming he had a legitimate job and that he would get a letter of support from the director of Homeboy Industries.
Documents show that Rudy Aguirre Jr. began to lay low when he suspected he was a target of the 2008 indictment of the Drew Street clique even though he was told by Avenues gangster James Campbell that he had not been named.
A month later, on August 2, Carlos "Stoney" Velasquez (who had recently been appointed as the new leader of the drug trade on Drew Street), Guillermo Hernandez and others allegedly shot to death Deputy Escalante with a .40 caliber handgun in an area controlled by the Avenues. (Velasquez, and Hernandez were arrested by the LAPD for the deputy's killing last December 12. They were subsequently charged with one count each of murder with the special circumstance that the killing was carried out to further the activities of a criminal gang. Jose Renteria was charged in April. A fourth suspect is on the lam).
That same day, after two juvenile members of the Avenues disposed of the gun, another Avenues gang member was overheard on a wiretap attempting to get to the bottom of the shooting and to find out whether the hit was ordered by the Mexican Mafia.
On August 15, authorities listened to a wiretapped conversation between Jose Leon and alleged shooter Velasquez about law enforcement efforts to track down the killers of Escalante. Leon told Velasquez that Mexican Mafia leaders wanted Cypress and 43rd Street cliques of the Avenues to become more active in the Drew Street drug trade because of the arrests made in June by the feds.
Velasquez allegedly told Leon that he had killed Escalante in retribution for the death of Leon's AK-47-wielding brother, Danny, by police officers on February 21, 2008, after fatally gunning down Marco Salas, a former Cypress Park gang member and almost killing his two-year-old granddaughter. Velasquez stated specifically that "Klever took one with him." Leon told Velasquez that he would protect Velasquez' brother and Avenues gang member Jose Gomez from retaliation for cooperating with law enforcement, because Velasquez killed the deputy.
On September 20, Aguirre Jr. took another trip to Pelican Bay to inform a Mexican Mafia member that "tax" payments had stopped because of the arrests of Drew street clique members, and that Drew Street had been shut down and James Campbell had been arrested. The Mexican Mafia member instructed Aguirre to have his lawyer send him a book about the Mexican Mafia and mark it as "confidential."
On December 11, 2008, Velasquez got word that there was an "emergency" because cops were conducting searches of gang members residences near Avenue 57. That same day, Rodriguez told Velasquez to get a gun. Velasquez told Richie Aguirre that a fellow gangster's residence had been searched by the cops, who seized their assault rifles but couldn't find their stash of narcotics.
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Velasquez then told a gangster to spread the rumor that Velasquez had been drinking with a fellow gangster when Escalante was murdered in order to create an alibi.
The indictment brings to light the sleazy drug-filled and violent world of the Avenues gangsters, from girlfriends who sneak notes into prison for their boyfriends, then lie to judges that they will stay out of the gang life to get smaller sentences; to old-time gangsters who hide heroin in their rectums to smuggle into jail, and to newbie
juvenile members who pay $10 a week so they can carry a weapon.
And the pride they feel. In one telling conversation, Richie Aguirre, on a cellphone hidden in his cell, told a female caller that she should be proud that her brothers had been featured in a "Gangland" episode about the Avenues gang on the History Channel, and that authority had changed hands within the Mexican Mafia from his brother Alex Aguirre to him.