SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Three associates of the Nuestra Familia prison gang pleaded guilty Friday to racketeering conspiracy charges, admitting their roles in violent crimes as a means to enforce gang rules inside Monterey County Jail, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
According to plea agreements, Johnny “Soldier Boy” Magdaleno, Rodney “Speedy” Luis Romero and Carlos “Lil Huero” Cervantes were members of Nuestra Familia/Salinas Norteños Enterprise between 2012 and 2014. The Enterprise consisted of the Nuestra Familia prison gang and Norteños street gangs from Salinas and the surrounding areas.
Enterprise members agreed to take part in crimes such as murder, drug trafficking and other violent acts “through a pattern of racketeering activity,” U.S. attorney David L. Anderson said.
Norteño gang members pledge allegiance and loyalty to Nuestra Familia and have to follow rules and certain rituals, which are maintained through violent discipline–assaults and threats–against members who violate them or pose a threat to the organization.
In their plea agreements, Magdaleno, Romero and Cervantes admitted to distributing drugs to inmates in Monterey County Jail. They said they were responsible for “removals,” violent attacks meant to remove a member who seriously violated an important gang rule.
Removals are often carried out by one or more “hitters” who stab the victim before having at least two “bombers” assault the target with punches and kicks. The second attack is meant to give the hitter time to clean themselves and get rid of the weapon used.
Magdaleno admitted to orchestrating four removals and was the hitter in two of them. In one 2012 incident, he said he stabbed the victim in the chest and back over 20 times. In another removal, Magdaleno said he even gave one victim marijuana before hand to let his guard down before he stabbed him in the head.
Romero said he approved one removal of a victim and helped plan two others in 2013. In one of these removals, the hitter stabbed the victim in the neck with a weapon made out of plexiglass.
Cervantes admitted to being the hitter in one removal and a bomber in another in 2013.
In September 2018, Magdaleno, Romero and Cervantes along with several other defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury with racketeering conspiracy. The three men were also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.
All three defendants pleaded guilty to the racketeering charge and said murder was an object of the conspiracy, Anderson said. U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman scheduled the sentencing hearing of Cervantes for May 19, 2020. The hearings for Magdaleno and Romero were scheduled for June 23, 2020.
Magdaleno faces the most time, agreeing to a term of imprisonment of 30 years to run concurrently with sentences connected to a “a number of state court convictions.” Romero agreed to a term of 18 years imprisonment and Cervantes agreed to a term of 10 years.
The prosecution is a result of an FBI investigation with help from Salinas police, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, the CHP and the CA Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation.