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California Gang Member Sentenced to Life in Federal Prison for Racketeering Offenses Related to Fatal Shooting of Three-Week-Old Infant

U.S. Attorney’s Office January 09, 2013
  • Central District of California (213) 894-2434

LOS ANGELES—A member of the 18th Street criminal street gang was sentenced to life in federal prison for his conviction on racketeering offenses arising out of the September 2007 shooting of a street vendor near MacArthur Park, California, that resulted in the murder of a 23-day-old infant.

Javier Perez, 35, received a life sentence from U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson. There is no parole in the federal system.

Perez was one of four defendants—all of whom were members or associates of the Columbia Lil’ Cycos clique of the 18th Street gang (the CLCS organization)—who were found guilty of federal racketeering offenses last May.

The three other defendants found guilty after last May’s trial are: Eduardo Hernandez, 35; Vladimir Iraheta, 31; and Leonidas Iraheta, 31. Judge Pregerson is scheduled to sentence those defendants on January 24 and 25.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the CLCS organization used violence and intimidation to control narcotics distribution in an area adjoining MacArthur Park in the Westlake District of Los Angeles. Under the orders of the CLCS organization’s leadership, narcotics suppliers and street dealers paid “rent”—typically a percentage of proceeds from the sale of narcotics—in exchange for permission from the CLCS organization to sell narcotics in the organization’s territory. Those who paid rent received the exclusive authorization to sell narcotics in CLCS organization territory, as well as protection from rivals. Street vendors operating in CLCS organization territory also were required to pay “rent” to the organization in order to be allowed to sell their wares near MacArthur Park. Evidence presented at trial showed that the CLCS organization made tens of thousands of dollars a week through its collection of rent. The failure or refusal to pay rent and otherwise follow the organization’s rules would result in retribution, including acts of violence.

A street vendor who refused to make a $50 rent payment to the CLCS organization was targeted to be killed by members of the organization in a shooting on September 15, 2007. Although the man survived despite being shot four times, a 23-day-old infant sitting in a stroller next to the vendor was struck and killed.

Shortly after the failed attempt to murder the vendor and the resulting death of the child, CLCS organization leaders ordered the kidnapping and murder of the shooter in order to make amends with the Mexican Mafia. The shooter was thereafter taken to Mexico by Javier Perez—who only 10 days before had been released from prison on other charges—and other CLCS organization members, under the false premise that the shooter would hide out from the police there. Once in Mexico, the shooter was driven to a remote area, where he was strangled and his lifeless body was thrown over a cliff. Unbeknownst to the would-be killers, the shooter survived the attempt on his life. The CLCS organization associate who assisted Perez in strangling the shooter previously was convicted and sentenced to a life term of imprisonment.

The four convicted at trial were among 43 members and associates of the CLCS organization who were charged in a 2009 federal racketeering indictment that alleged acts of violence, narcotics distribution, money laundering, and various violent crimes in aid of racketeering. The charged defendants included local federal criminal defense attorney Isaac Guillen who laundered over $1.3 million in drug and extortion proceeds on behalf of the CLCS organization and Mexican Mafia member Francisco “Puppet” Martinez. Guillen is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Pregerson tomorrow.

Thirty-seven of the defendants named in the indictment have been convicted in federal court. The remaining six defendants are fugitives.

The CLCS racketeering case was investigated by the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department.

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