SAN JOSE – A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging 17 defendants with racketeering conspiracy, including acts involving murder, robbery, drug trafficking, and money laundering, and charging five others with drug trafficking-related crimes. The indictment handed down onAugust 25, 2021, and unsealed today, catalogues a litany of crimes allegedly directed by the Nuestra Familia’s command structure incarcerated in California prisons. The charging announcement was made by Acting United States Attorney Stephanie Hinds, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Crag D. Fair, and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Wade R. Shannon at a press conference this morning. Also appearing at the press conference were Chief of the Office of Correctional Safety for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Derrick Marion, Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith, and San Jose Deputy Chief of Police Elle Washburn.
“The indictment charges all seven of the members who make up the Nuestra Familia’s ruling body: the General Council,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Hinds. “While the physical movement of this leadership was restricted by prison walls, the indictment alleges their power and influence were not so constrained. By disrupting gang leadership, we reduce violence on our streets. By removing violent actors and crime drivers from the streets, we make our neighborhoods safer.”
“The arrests made yesterday, most significantly the arrests of the Nuestra Familia leadership, will severely cripple the ability of this criminal enterprise to continue to facilitate crimes in communities throughout the state and help break a decades-old cycle of violence,” said FBI San Francisco Special Agent in Charge Fair.
“Today’s operation strikes a substantial blow to Nuestra Familia leadership. This investigation revealed the wide-ranging influence of the gang that extends far beyond prison walls. It is clear they have hard and fast rules, and those who run afoul are met with intimidation and violence that spills into our communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Wade R. Shannon. “We will continue to look at these organizations structurally to disrupt and dismantle them.”
According to the indictment, the 17 racketeering defendants were members and associates of the Nuestra Familia (“NF”) prison gang, a violent and lucrative organization formed in the 1960s. The NF is alleged in the indictment to be a criminal enterprise that was created to organize, protect, discipline, profit from, and maintain the allegiance of gang members on the streets of and within custodial facilities in California. As outlined in the indictment, membership in the NF involved a process of sponsorship, approval, and indoctrination. The perpetration of violence and other crimes was ordinarily a prerequisite to entrance, continued membership, and advancement in the organization. Once membership was achieved, this membership was for life. The indictment alleges an NF oath provides: “If I lead, follow. If I stumble, push me. If I fall, avenge me. If I betray you, kill me.”
The indictment also describes the NF’s organizational structure and, in particular, the gang’s governing body: a seven-member “General Council,” made up of three Generals and a four-member Inner Council, which makes significant decisions and oversees the activities of the NF and its subservient gangs. The indictment outlines each position according to the NF Constitution. According to the NF Constitution, the Street Regiment General oversees the NF’s “overall street operations.” The General of the Prisons is responsible for the NF’s “overall pinta [prison] functions,” and the General Advocates Office is the NF’s “justice department.” Tiered just below these three NF Generals was the Inner Council, which consisted of four senior NF members who served as “advisors” to the Generals and provided a system of checks and balances. All seven members of the NF’s General Council led the NF organization while incarcerated in the California prison system. Each is charged in this indictment.
Further, the indictment describes the appointment by these leaders of NF members to positions of power over hierarchical and paramilitary structures called “regiments,” imposed on its gang members operating on the streets in California. While the NF was composed of a relative few, it exercised control and wielded influence over thousands of subordinate gang members in counties and prisons throughout Northern California using such regiments. These regiments primarily guaranteed the NF’s vast influence and control over its own and its street gang members, ensured avenues to direct violence and other illicit activity, and secured means for the NF to make money through the commission of criminal activity. The NF oversaw such regiments in Santa Clara County, Monterey County, Santa Cruz County, San Benito County, San Francisco County, San Mateo County, Contra Costa County, Alameda County, Solano County, San Joaquin County, Fresno County, Kings County, Tulare County, Madera County, Merced County, Kern County, Sacramento County, Yolo County, Humboldt County, Shasta County, Lassen County, Tehama County, Butte County, Yuba County, Sutter County, Lake County, Placer County, and Sonoma County, as well as in Salinas Valley State Prison, Pelican Bay State Prison, Pleasant Valley State Prison, California State Prison – Solano, California State Prison – Sacramento, and High Desert State Prison.
According to the indictment, NF members and associates were involved in plots to kill 14 victims between April 2013 and July 2019 as part of the charged racketeering conspiracy. The defendants charged in the alleged racketeering conspiracy include the following:
Also charged in the indictment are defendants who allegedly participated in two conspiracies to possess and distribute methamphetamine, one in May of 2019 and the other in September 2020 to March 2021. The charges pending against these defendants are as follows:
The court also may order additional terms of supervised release, fines, and restitution. Nevertheless, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The defendants are scheduled to make initial federal court appearances before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Nathanael Cousins and U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Sallie Kim today.
This case is being prosecuted by the Organized Crime Strike Force of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI (San Francisco, Sacramento, and Phoenix Divisions), the DEA, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and the U.S. Marshal Service, with the assistance of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and the San Jose Police Department, and with support from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, Antioch Police Department, Campbell Police Department, Fremont Police Department, King’s County Sheriff’s Office, Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, Mountain View Police Department, Sacramento Police Department, Salinas Police Department, Menlo Park Police Department, Santa Clara County Parole Department, Santa Clara County Probation Department, Santa Clara Police Department, Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, Modesto Police Department, San Francisco Police Department, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, and Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety.
This investigation and prosecution are part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (“OCDETF”), which identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
Making sure that victims of federal crimes are treated with compassion, fairness and respect.