SAN FRANCISCO -- Twenty-five members of the Nuestra Familia prison gang, including its 'general' and 'first captain,' have been indicted on conspiracy and racketeering charges -- including murder, robbery, extortion and narcotics trafficking.
Leaders of the gang, listed by the state Attorney General as one of the chief sources of organized crime in California, allegedly directed illegal operations throughout central and northern California from behind prison walls, officials said.
Indicted were Familia leader Robert Rio Sossa and Joe Gonzales, both currently imprisoned, and 23 others. A Federal Grand Jury handed up the indictments last week but they were unsealed Tuesday.
The indictment said the objectives of the racketeering conspiracy included robbery to fill the coffers of the organization and narcotics trafficking and extortion as other means of obtaining money.
The Nuestra Familia was spawned in the California prison system, but starting in about 1975 other chapters -- called 'regiments' -- were established outside prison walls. The indictment listed Fresno, Salinas, San Jose, Gilroy, Oakland, Stockton and Santa Paula as Nuestra Familia centers.
Also indicted were Arturo R. Beltran, Kenneth J. Cassie, Raymond Castenada, Jose de la Luz Cobos, Raymond Contreras, James B. Cozad, Anselmo E. Dominguez, Alfredo M. Elizalde, Robert Flores, Renaldo Garcia Jr., David Hernandez, Phillip Lopez, Guadalupe A. Ramirez, Ruben G. Seja, Daniel R. Serrano, Arturo R. Serrato, William R. Soto, Sammy H. Venegas, Ruben Z. Garnica, Manuel M. Montelongo, Eddie A. Vindiola, Cesar R. Gutierrez and Alfredo J. Guerrero.
The defendants tried to control prostitution by extorting income from prostitutes, murdering and attempting to murder prostitutes who would not give money to the group and by murdering and attempting to murder others opposed to the alleged takeover of prostitution activities, the indictment said.
FBI and other agencies have been working on the indictments for more than a year and a federal grand jury was convened in Fresno early last year to hear evidence gathered in the statewide investigation.
In the past five years law enforcement officials have blamed 136 murders on gang members. They said many of the victims were gang members who broke the strict membership rules of the Nuestra Familia, Spanish for 'Our Family.'
Most of the alleged gang members named in the indictments were from the San Jose, Salinas and Fresno County areas, officials said.
Fresno County has been a base of gang activity and officials said between the gang has been linked to 28 murders in the county between 1976 and 1979.
Many of those named in the indictments are in prison on other charges and federal authorities hoped to add as much as 20 to 25 years to their prison terms with the new charges in the indictments.
Law enforcement officials said Nuestra Familia activity has been 'very, very low key' in the last couple of years but that the gang has regained monentum and numbers with the recent release of old members from prison. They said they hoped the new indictments would slow the resurgence of the gang.