Last month a Texas police officer was shot and killed in the middle of the street. Julian Pesina was working out of the Balcones Heights division. However, he was one law enforcement officer who was NOT killed in the line of duty.
Rather, Officer Pesina was leading a double life…and a rather dangerous one at that.
It turned out Pesina had been selling drugs for the Texas branch of the Mexican Mafia.
The discovery began in 2014 when federal investigators began probing Pesina’s ties to the Texas branch of the Mexican Mafia, and were close to making an arrest which they believed would send him to prison for a great number of years.
However, when La Eme (pronounced 'lah EH meh) discovered through Facebook that Pesina was a police officer, they beat the feds to the punch and murdered him.
“La Eme," short for Mexican Mafia, is a very highly organized criminal organization operating throughout the United States. Although most would assume it was founded in Mexico, it actually is entirely a U.S. criminal prison organization.
The most powerful of the divisions of La Eme is within the California prison system. Government officials claim that there are at least 155 and perhaps as many as 300 official members of the Mexican Mafia and nearly 1,000 associates who assist La Eme is carrying out its illegal activities.
The organization was founded in 1957 by Michael Cardiel along with 13 street gang members in Los Angeles neighborhoods who had been incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institute, which is now an adult state prison in Tracy, California. They organized initially to protect themselves from other prison gangs.
By 1961, their prison violence had skyrocketed so high that prison officials transferred many of the members of La Eme to San Quentin Prison, hoping to curb their violent behavior. It was a feeble attempt that failed miserably.
Law enforcement believes that there is no longer a single leader of the Mexican Mafia. Rather, they suspect that numerous members presently have the authority to order murders, as well as other criminal activity.
The following rules were established in the 1960s according to Rendon El 42:
1. A member may not be an informant or rat.
2. A member may not be a coward.
3. A member may not raise a hand against another member without sanction.
4. A member must not show disrespect for any member’ family, including sex with another member’s wife or girlfriend.
5. A member must not steal from another member.
6. A member must not interfere with another member’s business activities.
Today, most of the controlling activities of the Mexican Mafia are found in Latino areas of Southern California. Members of almost all Latino gangs in Southern California are obliged under threat of death to carry out any and all orders made by Mexican Mafia members. Additionally, the Mexican Mafia is loosely allied with the Aryan Brotherhood, a white prison gang, due to their common rivals within the state prison system.
According to the FBI, the Mexican Mafia has arranged for contract murders to be carried out by the Aryan Brotherhood. The first murder ordered by La Eme occurred in 1971 when Mexican Mafia member Alfonso “Pachie” Alvarez was found shot twice in the head in Monterey Park for collecting taxes on narcotics dealers without forwarding the profits to Mafia leaders behind bars.
By 1998 U.S. federal authorities indicted two members and associates of the Mexican Mafia and charged them under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RIC)) for crimes that included murder, extortion, and kidnapping. One of those arrested, Benjamin “Topo” Peters, was allegedly the Mexican Mafia’s highest-ranking member at the time and was in a power struggle with fellow member Ruben “Tupi” Hernandez.
In 2006, the federal government brought a 36-count indictment against members of the Mexican Mafia, including acts of violence, drug dealing, and extortion against smaller Latino street gangs. According to the federal indictment, the leaders of the Mafia exert their power from within the prison walls, even when locked in private cells for 23 hours of each day, still able to communicate with their associates.
In early 2012, federal authorities brought an indictment against 119 San Diego gang members, including a Mexican Mafia boss who was arrested in a raid of his home in San Marcos CA. His influence ran from the streets of North County to the inside of the jail in Vista CA.
Recently, more than 50 people with ties to two criminal street gangs were arrested in a series of raids carried out in Corona and the surrounding area in California. Additionally, 32 people were arrested in a months-long investigation, and according to the California Attorney General’s office authorities had previously netted 20 more arrests.
During these arrests, 67 firearms, $95,700 in currency, as well as methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana were seized with a total street value of more than $1.6 million.
Members of the Corona Varrio Locos and the Mexican Mafia prison gang were targeted during the sweep, which involved more than 300 law enforcement personnel from the Corona Police Department, Riverside Sheriff’s Department, and the California Justice and Corrections & Rehabilitation departments. Suspects are facing felony charges of firearm assaults, extortion, drug trafficking and conspiracy.
In December 2015, a former Mexican Mafia leader testified in federal court about how his years-long battle with longtime gang chieftain Peter Ojeda (a.k.a. 'Sana' and 'Big Homie') led to confusion and bloodshed in Orange County's jails and streets.
During nearly two days of testimony in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge James V. Selna, Armando Moreno provided a rare first-hand look into the secretive world of the upper-echelons of the powerful prison-based Mexican Mafia. Moreno was indicted on charges of extortion and racketeering, and decided it was best to cooperate with authorities.
Moreno’s testimony came in the midst of the federal trial of 73-year-old Ojeda, who is the oldest ranking member of the Orange County Mexican Mafia. According to authorities, Ojeda continues to run local streets and jails despite being shipped across the country to another prison following a 2006 conviction for racketeering.
Formerly a member of a Garden Grove CA street gang, Moreno spent nearly his entire life behind bars, beginning with his first jailing at the age of 18 in connection to a gang murder. And by 2006 he was voted to the leadership of his Mafia gang.
While Ojeda was out of the loop in California, he assigned Moreno with the task of looking after gang activity in Orange County. However, it wasn’t long before Moreno was back in jail, ordering his girlfriends to communicate with his crew on the streets. During this period Moreno learned from another Mexican Mafia member with Orange County ties that Ojeda no longer trusted him.
Soon word got to Moreno that Ojeda had put out the word that Moreno was not actually a member and should be killed for claiming to be. And it was at this point that Moreno realized his life was in danger.
Soon he began to admit to his role in a variety of plots while behind bars. He admitted to ordering an unsuccessful killing of a guard who disrespected him and another Mafia member. His long-term fate is still not known.
The very existence of such a brutal organization ought to bring chills to the average American. It is a stark reminder of the prohibition days and the likes of Al Capone.
While public officials recognize that the Mexican Mafia poses the greatest threat to Texas due to their relationships with the drug cartels in Mexico, there is more than enough to worry about right here in California, with the organization’s high levels of criminal activity, the great lengths they will go to in order to preserve their power and control, and their level of violence.
Yet, not much is written about this significant threat to society in terms of a plan to eradicate the threat by our government. And while the drug cartels are in the news rather often, rarely is the organization itself even mentioned in the media. It seems like Americana have adapted to their criminal activity as though it is inevitable.
With significant help from the FBI in the 1920s and 1930s, much of the “Mob” was destroyed, including the famous Al Capone. One has to wonder what government is actually doing to even reduce this threat.
It seems that we are tolerating the intolerable.
Spero columnist John Mancino is a security professional located in California.