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Transnational Gangs
03/14/2014

14 Bay Area Surenos street gang members indicted for racketeering and murder

2 face possible death penalty

SAN FRANCISCO – Fourteen Bay Area members of the 19th Street Sureños gang, and the associated 16th Street Sureños gang, have been charged in a federal indictment with a variety of offenses, including racketeering and murder, following a two-year probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the San Francisco Police Department.

Thirteen of the defendants were taken into custody during a joint law enforcement operation Wednesday in San Francisco and Daly City. HSI special agents and investigators from the San Francisco Police Department, aided by the U.S. Secret Service and Daly City Police Department, arrested all of the named defendants except Alberto Torres, who is expected to be taken into custody shortly.

"This is the third major racketeering case against members of a criminal street gang here in the Bay Area stemming from a probe by Homeland Security Investigations," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge of HSI San Francisco. "This week’s arrests are the culmination of a long-term investigation by HSI special agents and investigators from the San Francisco Police Department. Together, we are sending a message to these dangerous street gangs about the consequences of using violence and fear to further their criminal enterprise."

The 14 defendants are named in a 16-count indictment handed down by a federal grand jury March 6 and unsealed Thursday. The 13 defendants who are in federal custody made their initial appearances Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Nathanael Cousins. Those named in the indictment are:

  • Eduardo Alvarez, a/k/a "Clumsy," 25, of San Francisco;
  • Elias Chavez, a/k/a "Kiko," 26, of San Francisco;
  • Luis Cid-Salinas, a/k/a "Lonely," 29, of San Francisco;
  • Ignacio Cruz, a/k/a "Nacho," 24, of San Francisco;
  • Juan Carlos Garcia-Gomez, a/k/a "Lil Ghost," 27, of San Francisco;
  • Jairo Hernandez, a/k/a "Joker," 33, of San Francisco;
  • Orlando Carlos Hernandez, a/k/a "Chisto," 31, of Oakland;
  • Jusef Nathan, a/k/a "Boo," 35, of San Francisco;
  • Rogelio Real, a/k/a "Payaso," 29, of San Francisco;
  • Mario Serrano, a/k/a "Caballo," 31, of San Francisco;
  • Alberto Torres, a/k/a "Taz," 32, of San Francisco;
  • Carlos Vasquez, a/k/a "Malo," 26, of San Francisco;
  • Weston Venegas, a/k/a "Cartoon," 24, of Daly City; and
  • Michael Viera, a/k/a "Lil Rocks" or "Rocks," 24, of San Francisco.

All 14 defendants are charged with racketeering conspiracy; conspiracy to commit murder in the aid of racketeering; and conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in the aid of racketeering, arising from their participation in the racketeering enterprise alleged as the 19th Street Sureños. The defendants are also charged with using firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence. According to the indictment, the 19th Street Sureños gang constitutes a racketeering enterprise, and its members and associates agreed to conduct the affairs of the enterprise through, among other crimes, murder, robbery, narcotics trafficking, obstruction of justice and tampering with witnesses.

Two of the 14 racketeering defendants – Jairo Hernandez and Carlos Vasquez – are also charged with one count of murder in the aid of racketeering committed Aug. 30, 2011.Two other defendants – Ignacio Cruz and Elias Chavez – are charged with four counts of attempted murder in connection with an incident Jan. 4. Defendants Albert Torres and Michael Viera are each charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in the aid of racketeering for an incident in May of last year. Finally, defendant Eduardo Alvarez is charged with two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon in the aid of racketeering, in connection with incidents that occurred Sept. 1, 2013, and Sept. 8, 2013.

All 14 defendants face up to life in prison, while Jairo Hernandez and Carlos Vasquez are subject to the death penalty. Although the two men are eligible for the death penalty for their alleged participation in the Aug. 30, 2011, murder, the decision whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty remains pending.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Scoble is prosecuting the case, aided by Christine Tian and Ponly Tu.