SAN FRANCISCO — Following a three-month trial, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts Tuesday against three Bay Area gang members, including one who shot and wounded three U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) when they sought to arrest him in May 2012.
The three defendants – including Victor Flores, 23, of Petaluma; Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez, 24, of San Mateo; and Armando Acosta, 29, of South San Francisco – were convicted of racketeering conspiracy. In addition, the jury found Flores guilty of three counts of racketeering murder and four counts of racketeering attempted murder for his involvement in a Dec. 22, 2010, shooting in South San Francisco, as well as the attempted murder of the three HSI special agents. Acosta was also convicted of being an accessory-after-the-fact to murder, as well as various obstruction offenses. A fourth defendant, Mario Bergren, was acquitted of the charges against him.
The jury found that the three defendants conspired to conduct the affairs of a racketeering enterprise, the 500 Block/C Street Gang. The 500 Block/C Street Gang was a Norteño gang based in South San Francisco that engaged in drug dealing, robbery, obstruction of justice, and crimes of violence, including one of the single most violent crimes in South San Francisco history.
According to the evidence presented at trial, on the night of Dec. 22, 2010, Flores, along with fellow 500 Block/C Street gang member Joseph Ortiz, shot at seven people they believed to be rival gang members as the victims walked down a South San Francisco street. Three of the individuals died. Three others were wounded. Acosta was also convicted of being an accessory-after-the-fact to racketeering murder for his role in helping cover up the killings.
In addition, when members of HSI's Los Angeles Special Response Team went to execute an arrest warrant for Flores on May 3, 2012, in Petaluma, he brandished an AK-47-style assault weapon. Flores fired 20 rounds of large-caliber ammunition at the agents, before ultimately surrendering. The jury convicted Flores of attempted murder for wounding the HSI special agents.
"These convictions are the result of the tireless effort of law enforcement agents from multiple agencies working together to keep the community safe. For the victims and their families, there is nothing we can do to erase their pain and sorrow. We hope, however, that these convictions demonstrate that justice has been served and that the victims and their families can now begin to heal," said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. "The facts of this case highlight the extraordinary bravery with which the men and women of law enforcement perform their duties."
"The conviction of Victor Flores for his attempted murder of three Department of Homeland Security agents represents a significant victory for the rule of law and for the agents and officers who put their lives on the line every day to enforce those laws," said David J. Johnson, FBI special agent in charge of the San Francisco Field Office. "The FBI is proud of its role in this highly successful case and will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice anyone who attempts to harm law enforcement agents or officers engaged in the pursuit of justice."
"South San Francisco is a safe place to live and work and this conviction sends a strong message to those who continue to promote the gang lifestyle, that we are not going to tolerate being shaken by senseless and blatant acts of gang violence," said South San Francisco Police Chief Jeff Azzopardi. "We will continue our partnership with the Daly City Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI, and the United States Attorney's Office to keep South San Francisco one of the safest places in the Bay Area."
Flores, Campos-Gonzalez, and Acosta remain in custody and are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 16, 2015. Flores faces a maximum penalty of six life terms plus 103 years' imprisonment. Campos-Gonzalez faces up to 20 years' imprisonment, while Acosta faces up to 60 years' imprisonment.
The jury's verdict concludes an investigation initiated by the South San Francisco Police Department, the Daly City Police Department, HSI, and the FBI. In all, more than 19 defendants were charged in the case, with more than 15 defendants pleading guilty, including Joseph Ortiz, who is presently serving a sentence of five life terms plus 60 years' imprisonment for his involvement in the December 2010 shooting.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Acadia L. Senese, Stephen Meyer, and Benjamin Tolkoff prosecuted the case, aided by Kevin Costello and Daniel Charlier-Smith.