A joint task force of 250 state and local law enforcement agents “dealt a blow” to the powerful Nuestra Familia prison gang by arresting 34 members. California Attorney General Jerry Brown says that although the arrests only took place in Visalia and surrounding areas, he hopes they will have statewide impacts because the gang operates throughout California, including in the Bay Area.
He said gang leaders who are serving life sentences have been able to orchestrate crimes, including murders, throughout California from their cells at a secure housing unit at the Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County by using cell phones that have been smuggled into the prison.
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The gang leaders have either been able to make the calls themselves or have been able to send written messages through their lawyers and other outsiders that use encrypted code “as sophisticated as anything used in wartime,” Brown said.
He said sophisticated technology exists to jam cell phones from within prisons, but federal law must be changed to allow that to happen.
“I will talk to President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to try to accomplish that,” Brown said.
According to Brown, Nuestra Familia, which means “Our Family,” in Spanish, was launched at Folsom State Prison in 1968 and is one of seven prison gangs in the state.
He said Nuestra Familia controls illegal activities inside several prisons as well as most of the Norteno gangs that operate in central California from Yuba City to Bakersfield and from Salinas to the Sierra foothills.
Brown said the gang has been particularly active in Central Valley communities such as Visalia — where murders, assaults and drive-by shootings have doubled in the past year — as well as in Salinas.
“It’s all about drugs, money and taking control,” he said. “The fight for control gets very vicious.”
He said he didn’t think any place was safe from the gangs’ criminal enterprises and warned that California could be wracked by the same level of gang-oriented violence that has led to large numbers of murders in Mexico — unless there’s a concerted effort against prison gangs.
Although Nuestra Familia’s leaders are already in prison for murder convictions and other crimes, Brown said the arrests today have taken other high-level gang members off the streets.
He said some of those members have already served time in state prison and “didn’t miss a beat and were able to continue their criminal activity” while they were incarcerated.
Brown alleged that Nuestra Familia is headed by David “DC” Cervantes, who is serving a life sentence at Pelican Bay for a murder conviction.
He alleged that Cervantes’ three generals at Pelican Bay are Matt “Mateo” Rocha, Shawn “Bubbles” Cameron and Anthony “Chuco” Guillen.