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Transnational Gangs

Major Inland Empire gang figure receives 24-year prison term for drug trafficking and firearms charges

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A major Inland Empire gang figure previously convicted of drug trafficking and weapons charges was sentenced Monday to 24 years in federal prison.

Julio Cesar Ramirez, who according to court documents is a major figure within the Riverside-based Casa Blanca Vagabundos street gang, was sentenced Monday for distribution of methamphetamine, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of an unregistered firearm, all felonies. The 37-year-old Riverside man had previously pleaded guilty to the charges.

Monday’s sentencing follows a long-term probe spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) targeting the criminal activities of the Casa Blanca Vagabundos street gang. HSI received substantial assistance with the probe from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; and the Riverside Police Department. The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

"This lengthy prison sentence should provide a measure of reassurance for Riverside-area residents, knowing that a major figure in one of the Inland Empire’s most ruthless gangs will be behind bars for more than two decades," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. "Taking the leaders of these dangerous criminal organizations off of the streets is a key facet of HSI’s ongoing efforts to dismantle the transnational street gangs that are operating throughout the Southland."

The multi-agency probe revealed that from July 2010 to June 2011, Ramirez and three other suspected members or associates of the gang were involved in trafficking methamphetamine and/or firearms in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. During the course of the case, investigators made multiple undercover purchases of methamphetamine and firearms, including revolvers, pistols, machine guns and assault weapons.

The three other suspected gang members charged in connection with the investigation are:

  • Carlos Alberto Ramirez, Julio Ramirez’s brother, 32, of Fontana, indicted in 2011 for distribution of methamphetamine. He was arrested April 25 after being a federal fugitive for almost two years. If convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years.
  • Gerardo Pulido, 37, of Riverside, sentenced May 21, 2012, to 30 months in federal prison. Pulido pleaded guilty to distribution of methamphetamine; and
  • Sergio Abraham Cota-Serrano, 39, of Perris, sentenced Dec. 8, 2011, to 12 months and one day in federal prison. Cota-Serrano pleaded guilty to illegal re-entry after deportation.

This investigation was part of HSI’s Operation Community Shield, an initiative in which HSI partners with federal, state and local authorities to identify violent street gangs and develop intelligence on gang members and associates, gang criminal activities and international movements to arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members. HSI’s National Gang Unit’s goal is to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.

Since the inception of Operation Community Shield in February 2005, HSI special agents working in conjunction with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies nationwide have arrested more than 29,000 street gang members and associates linked to more than 2,300 different gangs.