Indictments returned against dozens allegedly under Mexican Mafia control
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: November 30, 2012
An intensive and extensive investigation by Ventura County law enforcement resulted in a record grand jury indictment in what is being described as a rare partnership between street gangs directed and monitored by the Mexican Mafia.
And more arrests are expected, according to District Attorney Greg Totten and Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean, who held a press conference Tuesday morning announcing the crackdown.
Flanked by displays of 32 seized weapons and photographs of the dozens of area residents arrested, Totten and Dean discussed the 35-count indictment that details the activities of Martin “Evil” Madrigal, who from behind bars was calling the shots of the operation conducted by local gangs, some that have been violent rivals for years. But the Mexican Mafia, which is believed to have been a power in criminal activity for decades in spite of being operated mostly by prison inmates, has still emerged as the major force in violent street crime.
Madrigal, whose location was not disclosed, was one of the 27 named in the indictment. Two dozen of those named have been arrested, and there are more arrests pending of other as yet unidentified gang members. Rival gangs reportedly found common ground at the direction of Madrigal and the Mexican Mafia and cooperated on extortion schemes, violent crimes and drug deals.
The Ventura County probe, dubbed Operation Wicked Hand, started with two shootings in Moorpark in April and a heroin bust about the same time, incidents, said Dean, that “we soon came to realize... weren’t happenstance.” Investigators found Madrigal was responsible for a wide territory and directed a Ventura County gang member named Edwin “Sporty” Mora to carry out his mandates and enforce his decisions on the street, including the Moorpark incidents.
According to the indictment, Madrigal supplied Mora with a written hit list and “permission to conduct extortion on behalf of the Mexican Mafia.” Various communications including phone calls and texts detailed the illegal operations involving multi-suspects and crimes they were involved in ranging from extortion and planning two murders - violence prevented by law enforcement - and the distribution/sales of narcotics. Weapons trafficking and home invasion robberies were also noted in the indictments.
Along with the thwarted killings, an armed drugstore robbery was also prevented by investigators who, Dean said, had “options, and we opted to prevent those crimes.” Dean said officers were at the scene of the planned pharmacy robbery and took the suspects into custody, “masks in hand and guns in hand.”
Dozens of weapons, including an AK47 on display at the press conference, were confiscated during a series of arrests starting in May and ending earlier this month. The indictment was returned November 14 after the investigation that involved more than 70 VCSD officers as well as Oxnard Police Department personnel and personnel from other agencies.
“This case has dealt a crushing blow to organized crime in Ventura County,” said Assistant Sheriff Gary Pentis. “We have incapacitated the organization from the top through its geographic managers.”
Bail for those arrested, including two juveniles, ranges from $1 million to $5 million. According to Totten, his office submitted the case to the grand jury due to its complexity and the need for secrecy through the ongoing investigation.
Dean said the Mexican Mafia ordered the crimes be committed, “not only for personal financial gain but also to maintain control throughout Ventura County of gang members through fear and intimidation.” Also seized during the investigation was $36,000 in cash and a quarter-pound of heroin.
The indictments on 27 people accused them of conspiring to commit assault likely to cause serious bodily injury, extortion, home invasion robberies, commercial pharmaceutical robberies, narcotics trafficking, and other organized criminal activity. All of the suspects are documented members of several local gangs in Ventura County.
A number of suspects are facing multiple charges, and three are facing possible life sentences under the state’s three-strikes law. The defendants indicted are Martin Madrigal, 39; David Acosta, 37; Ismael Arreola, 32; Jose Arreola, 35; Guadalupe Barrales, 39; Jose Barrales, 19; Brian Beppu, 35; Lina Fuentes, 34; Michael Lopez, 36; Angel Mata, 34; Alana Mora, 31; Edwin Mora, 28; Jose Mendoza, 23; Ruben Mora, 29; Librado Navarette, 26; Cesar Navarette, 24; Javier Tamayo, 34; Olivia Tamayo, 37; Juan Rosas, 26; Alfred Perez, 28; Sabrina Zuniga, 31; Robert De La Cerda, 34; Miguel Gallardo, 36; Rodolfo Magdaleno 34; Rafael Palazuelos, 31; and two male juveniles, each 16 years old.