SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — A notorious Norteno gang member who goes by the street name ‘Lil Rhino’ was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in federal prison for taking part in a series of violent attacks on other inmates at the Monterey County Jail.
Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds said Michael Cazares, also known as ‘Lil Rhino’, was sentenced after he pleaded guilty to the federal RICO and conspiracy charges in June.READ MORE: UPDATE: High-Speed Stolen RV Pursuit Ends In Horrific San Ramon Crash
In his plea agreement, Cazares admitted to being a member of the Nuestra Familia/Salinas Norteños. This enterprise consists of members and associates of the Nuestra Familia prison gang as well as Norteño street gangs in Salinas and the surrounding areas.
While serving time in the Monterey County jail on other charges, Cazares conspired with other gang members to act as enforcers, conducting “removals” of inmates. In his plea agreement, Cazares described a “removal” as a pre-planned vicious attack designed to inflict maximum physical injury on a fellow inmate gang member who committed a serious infraction of the gang’s rules.READ MORE: Group Forms To Help Former California Prison Inmates' Return to Society
A removal, as described in the plea agreement, is carried out by one or more “hitters” who stab the victim with a jail-made weapon and are followed by at least two “bombers” who beat the victim. The purpose of the subsequent beating by bombers, who carry no weapons, is to inflict injury while providing time for the hitters to wash blood off of themselves and to get rid of the weapons.
Drug trafficking inside jail is a significant source of revenue for Nuestra Familia and Norteños. Cazares further admitted that he also conspired with other gang members to support the distribution of narcotics within the Monterey County Jail.
Cazares and 14 other Norteño gang members were indicted by a federal grand jury on September 27, 2018. They were charged with one count of a RICO racketeering conspiracy; one count of conspiracy to commit attempted murder in aid of racketeering and one count of conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering.MORE NEWS: 'Survivor 41' Episode 6: The Merge Part 1
To date, 13 of the charged defendants have pleaded guilty and 12 have been sentenced, while two defendants remain scheduled for a trial set to commence on October 25.