For Immediate Release
SoCal ATF Agents Honored by the USA for Successful Execution of Violent Crime Investigations
LOS ANGELES - Sandra Brown, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California (CDCA), recognized 13 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) special agents today in a ceremony for their dedicated service and extensive investigations leading to the prosecution of violent criminals.
“The men and woman of ATF always and will continue, to serve selflessly to keep our public safe,” said ATF Los Angeles Special Agent in Charge Eric Harden. “I couldn’t be more proud of these Southern California agents for their distinguished service, dedication, and commitment to ATF’s mission of investigating and reducing firearms violence in our area of responsibility. These are just some examples highlighting our agents’ efforts and the impact they have on many lives.”
Life Sentences and Florencia 13 Gang Members Charged Including Leadership
A 17-year ATF special agent veteran led an ATF task force working closely with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and Huntington Park Police Department taking down 31 members of the Florencia 13 gang and its leadership to include a Mexican Mafia member running the enterprise and his top shot callers. She obtained substantial evidence to bring racketeering, narcotics, and firearms charges against the gang members. She painstakingly reviewed thousands of hours of jail calls and wiretap recordings, which led to numerous seizures. She worked closely with Huntington Park Police Department to identify the violent criminals responsible for a Florencia 13 murder ordered during the investigation. In June 2016, four defendants were convicted at trial with the two defendants who were involved in the murder (to include the shooter) both sentenced to life in prison.
Burglary Crew which Targeted Gun Stores and High-End Retail Shops Nabbed
From August to November 2015, a robbery crew from Los Angeles burglarized nearly 20 commercial enterprises in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties, and stole more than a half-million dollars in merchandise. The crew’s targets included retailers of luxury clothing and items, and federal firearms licensees (FFLs), or gun stores, from which they stole more than 120 firearms. Special Agent Ryan Stearman led an exhaustive investigation to identify and track the suspects. Stearman arrested 10 perpetrators, and recovered more than 40 of the stolen firearms.
His investigation also led to convictions against the two defendants who sold the stolen guns—one of whom was convicted after a two-week trial.
Takedown of the El Monte Flores Gang that Sold Drugs at the Boys & Girls Club
An ATF 17-year special agent veteran, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent and an El Monte police officer collaborated to lead a complex investigation into the El Monte Flores gang. In 2014, 41 defendants were indicted for RICO, VICAR murder and attempted murder, drug trafficking offenses, firearm offenses, and others crimes. The multi-generational gang was formed in the 1960s, and since then controlled the drug trade in El Monte. The gang was also involved in hate crimes directed against African-Americans who resided in the gang’s self-designated territory. The gang maintained a significant presence at a Boys & Girls Club where they openly sold drugs and held gang meetings. The majority of the defendants pleaded guilty and the senior members of the gang all received between 15 to 17 years imprisonment.
Trafficking Scheme Providing Guns to Criminals in Compton & Willowbrook Disrupted
Two ATF special agents, who together had more than 20 years of experience between them, led a yearlong investigation, resulting in more than 100 illegally trafficked firearms taken off the streets of Los Angeles. The large number of firearms seized represents a significant blow to criminal networks operating in and around the Compton and Willowbrook areas. Two defendants were convicted at trial, and three pleaded guilty of conspiracy, engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license, felon in possession of a firearm, distribution of PCP, and distribution of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. The defendants received sentences of between 21 to 63 months in custody.
Agents Put Defendant Selling Machineguns Behind Bars
An ATF undercover agent worked the streets and purchased a fully-automatic MAC-10 machinegun from a suspect. When an arrest warrant was issued and a search of the suspect’s residence was executed, agents seized unregistered silencers from his home. The undercover agent and the ATF case agent both testified during a hard fought trial. The suspect was found guilty, but filed a new trial motion. Both agents worked diligently with the CDCA in the months following trial to oppose a new trial motion and protect the jury’s guilty verdict. The undercover agent who made the purchase testified during a post-trial evidentiary hearing, where the United States ultimately prevailed. Both agents showed dedication, commitment, and great diligence to their role in the prosecution of this violent criminal.
Agent Protects Victims for 7 Years from Same Dangerous Defendant
Special Agent Angie Kaighin closed a felon in possession case in 2009 for which the defendant received 60 months imprisonment and three years’ supervised release. The defendant had prior felony domestic violence convictions. His felon in possession conviction stemmed from an incident in which he pistol-whipped his then girlfriend. Kaighin’s commitment to protecting the public from this defendant never stopped. In 2015, Kaighin proved the defendant committed another domestic violence assault on his new girlfriend while on supervised release.
In 2016, the defendant continued to abuse the same victim by calling her from prison. Kaighin listened to hundreds of jail calls proving the defendant was violating a no-contact order, which led to new federal charges for criminal contempt. Kaighin went above and beyond protecting these victims. The defendant was sentenced this time to 20 months in federal prison for the supervised release violation.
Violent Criminal Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison
Daniel Chavez, a convicted felon, was a fugitive of the State of California for attempted murder. Special Agent Jesse Woolley and Special Agent Jarrett Keegan targeted the violent criminal and spearheaded an air-tight investigation resulting in eight firearm and narcotics charges, followed by his arrest. Chavez sold more than 5 pounds of methamphetamine and six firearms to a confidential informant. When Chavez was arrested, he was in possession of eight firearms, including a sawed-off shotgun, and more than 140 pounds of ammunition. Woolley and Keegan both testified at trial, where Chavez was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Gang Member Convicted of Being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm
Maliek Grissett, a member of the Nutty Blocc Crips gang, had a loaded revolver while on parole. Grissett had recently been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, after he stabbed two people. Grissett was arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm. In support of a motion to suppress, Grissett submitted declarations disputing key facts. Special Agent Jason D. Hammond and Special Agent Stephanie Crebbs went above and beyond their duties, interviewing multiple witnesses and obtaining admissions that undermined the credibility of Grissett. Due to these agents’ diligent work Grissett’s motion was denied. After a bench trial, Grissett was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to 57 months imprisonment.
Six-time Convicted Felon Found Guilty of Being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm
Mario King was arrested when the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) found a loaded handgun with an extended magazine in the center console of his car. King, a six-time convicted felon, was a prohibited person. Special Agent Nicole Lozano obtained a search warrant for King’s cellphone, which contained text messages and pictures relating to the firearm he possessed. She also worked with the ATF Los Angeles Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC) and had the gun’s ballistic run through the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN). The gun was a positive NIBIN hit for an earlier homicide. The evidence assisted the government in defeating King’s motion to suppress the evidence and King pleaded guilty. King was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and sentenced to 51 months imprisonment.
CDCA consists of the seven counties to include Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. With a population of more than 18 million, it is by far the most populous federal judicial district, with almost twice the population of the next-largest district. The district extends from the Pacific Ocean on the west to the Nevada and Arizona borders on the east, covering more than 40,000 square miles.
Many of the ATF special agents’ names were omitted to protect their identity as they continue to work in undercover capacities and for additional operational security reasons.