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Transnational Gangs

Mexican Mafia member sentenced to 25 years in federal prison

Mafia member was part of the Hondo- and Uvalde-based criminal organization

DEL RIO, Texas — A Texas "Mexican Mafia" gang member was sentenced on Thursday to 25 years in federal prison for conspiracy to violate the "racketeering influenced corrupt organizations" (RICO) statue, announced U.S. Attorney, Robert Pittman, Western District of Texas.

Valdomero "Oso" Hernandez, 34, appeared before U.S. District Judge Alia Moses on Nov. 17. Judge Moses sentenced Hernandez to 300 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, a $7,500 fine and a $100 special assessment.

According to court documents, in August 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) began investigating the Mexican Mafia (EME) criminal organization. The investigation revealed that Hernandez and others agreed to conduct the affairs of the Texas Mexican Mafia through a pattern of racketeering acts in around the Texas cities of Uvalde, Eagle Pass and Del Rio. These acts included murder, solicitation of murder, drug trafficking and extortion. The extortion took the form of coercive collection of a 10 percent drug tax, also known as "the dime," from drug distributors known to the members of the criminal enterprise. Collection was enforced by robbery, serious bodily injury, or other acts of violence, including the murders of Christopher Mendez in Concan, Texas, on Dec. 6, 2006, and Jose Damian Garza in Hondo, Texas, on July 19, 2008.

On July 16, 2009, Hernandez was arrested without incident. On July 12, 2010 Hernandez pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to conduct the affairs of racketeering through a pattern of racketeering.

"This significant prison sentence sends a strong message that HSI does not tolerate brazen acts of violence," said Vincent Iglio, deputy special agent in charge of ICE HSI in San Antonio. "This 25-year sentence also demonstrates that law enforcement and the community are united in our commitment to fight gang violence and drive it out of our neighborhoods."

Hernandez is the ninth defendant in this case to be sentenced. In July, a federal jury convicted Javier "Javi" Guerrero, 23, of Uvalde, and 26-year-old Victor Esquivel of Eagle Pass of conspiracy to violate the RICO statute. Both face up to life in federal prison. Sentencing for Guerrero and Esquivel is scheduled for April 16, 2012.

Hernandez has been in federal custody since his arrest. He will remain in prison pending transfer to a Bureau of Prisons facility to be designated in the near future.

This sentence resulted from a joint ongoing investigation by the following agencies: ICE HSI, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Texas Department of Public Safety's Criminal Investigations Division. The Drug Enforcement Administration, the Hondo Police Department, the Uvalde Police Department, the Uvalde County Sheriff's Office, and the Texas Department of Public Safety's Texas Rangers also assisted.

Information received by ICE HSI and other law enforcement agencies indicates that criminal gangs in North Texas are becoming increasingly involved with smuggling and distributing narcotics, laundering illicit drug proceeds and other illegal activities.

The Texas Mexican Mafia was formed in the early 1980s by inmates in the Texas prison system. Over the years, the gang has expanded its efforts to promote widespread criminal activity through extortion, narcotics trafficking and violent crime. Also known as "La Eme" or "Mexikanemi," the organization has been the subject of numerous federal indictments in the Western District of Texas since 1991. This investigation, however, is the first to directly target the gang's machinery operating along the Texas-Mexico international border in the cities of Eagle Pass, Del Rio, Crystal City, Carrizo Springs, Uvalde, Sabinal and Hondo.