LOS ANGELES – A member of a Mexican Mafia-affiliated street gang that operates in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs was sentenced today to 480 months in federal prison for a series of violent crimes that included the 2016 murder of a rival gang member outside a San Gabriel Valley restaurant.
Leonardo Antolin, 25, a.k.a. “Rowdy,” of Whittier, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who said that Antolin had shown a “lack of concern for members of the community” through his acts of violence, and “all of that counsels for a very lengthy sentence.”
Antolin – a member of the Canta Ranas gang – pleaded guilty in July 2019 to conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances, and discharging a firearm during a violent crime.
On April 19, 2016, Antolin murdered Dominic Gonzales, a Mexican Mafia member who wanted to expand his influence and challenge the authority of other Mexican Mafia members in the San Gabriel Valley. During the incident at a restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley community of Bassett, the Mexican Mafia member was fatally shot, his bodyguard was severely wounded, and an innocent restaurant patron was severely wounded when she was shot six times while sitting with her husband in the direct line of fire.
Antolin’s conviction arose from a 2016 federal grand jury indictment charging 51 defendants that was the result of Operation Frog Legs, an investigation by the Southern California Drug Task Force, part of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) initiative. The Task Force members that participated were: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Drug Enforcement Administration, the Whittier Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, IRS Criminal Investigation, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Office of Correctional Safety.
Prosecutors have secured more than 40 convictions so far in this matter. The case’s lead defendant, Jose Loza, 41, is scheduled to be sentenced on February 24. Loza faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison after a federal jury in August 2019 found him guilty of 12 felonies, including Gonzales’ murder, after a 15-day trial.
“There can be no more serious offense than taking the life of another human being and here, defendant conspired to murder, and did, in fact, murder (the) victim…pursuant to a premeditated, cold-blooded plan hatched by co-defendant Loza,” prosecutors wrote in the government’s sentencing memorandum.
Antolin also was heavily involved in narcotics trafficking on the gang’s behalf. He also acted as an enforcer who collected extortionate taxes which were required to be paid by not only members and associates of the criminal enterprise but also any individual who committed revenue-generating crimes within the enterprise’s territory.
This matter was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney, Central District of California’s International Narcotics, Money Laundering and Racketeering Section and Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.