For Immediate Release
Guilty Verdict for Two Men Linked to Santa Fe Springs Street Gang
Convicted of Federal Racketeering, Firearms & Drug Charges
LOS ANGELES – Two members of the Canta Ranas Organization, a Santa Fe Springs-based criminal enterprise linked to the Mexican Mafia, have been found guilty by a jury of multiple federal offenses, including racketeering, narcotics and firearms charges.
Henry Jerry Mendoza, 39, who is also know by a number of monikers including “Spanky,” of Bellflower, and Jaime Andrew Villalba, 38, a.k.a. “Puppet,” of Hemet, each was found guilty on Dec. 14 of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. Mendoza also was found guilty of drug trafficking conspiracy, possession of methamphetamine and of carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence or drug trafficking crime.
Mendoza and Villalba were convicted in the third recent trial against members of Canta Ranas, a multi-generational street gang that primarily operates in Santa Fe Springs and Whittier. The criminal organization is involved in murder, burglary, extortion, money-laundering and drug distribution, according to court documents.
The evidence presented to the jury at Mendoza and Villalba’s trial showed Mendoza sold drugs and possessed firearms in furtherance of the criminal enterprise and, at the time of his arrest in December 2016, he possessed multiple bags of methamphetamine and a loaded 9-mm handgun. Villalba stored weapons and ammunition on behalf of the racketeering organization, brokered deals for gun magazines and ammunition for one of the leaders of the gang, and committed assaults on the gang’s behalf, according to trial evidence. In June 2013, Villalba assaulted someone he believed belonged to a rival street gang, hitting the unconscious man with a bottle, and, the following month, Villalba was found in possession of approximately 10 firearms, including AR-types rifles, shot guns, handguns and a large amount of ammunition for each firearm, the trial evidence showed.
United States District Judge Percy Anderson has scheduled March 11, 2019 sentencing hearings for both defendants, where each will face potential sentences of life imprisonment on the RICO count. Mendoza faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in federal prison on the drug trafficking conspiracy and firearms charges because he has a prior conviction for a felony drug offense.
Over the past few months, federal juries have convicted seven members of the Canta Ranas Organization. Following trials in August and September, five Canta Ranas-linked defendants were found guilty of racketeering conspiracy and other counts. All three trials this year arose from a federal grand jury indictment charging 51 defendants that was the result of an investigation known as “Operation Frog Legs.”
Operation Frog Legs is the result of an investigation by the Southern California Drug Task Force, which is led by the Drug Enforcement Administration as part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiative. The Task Force members that participated in Operation Frog Legs were the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigation, the Whittier Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Correctional Safety, Special Service Unit.
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