LOS ANGELES – A member of the San Fernando Valley-based Vineland Boys who helped run the street gang’s drug trafficking operations has been sentenced to 120 months in federal prison for federal racketeering and narcotics crimes, the Justice Department announced today.
Mark Anthony Espinosa, 43, of Lancaster, was sentenced late Tuesday afternoon by United States District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald.
Espinosa pleaded guilty on April 7 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs, including methamphetamine.
According to court documents, from November 2015 to November 2019, Espinosa was a member of the Pequeños clique of the Vineland Boys. Espinosa conspired with other Vineland Boys gang members to sell drugs throughout the gang’s “territory.” Espinosa also acted as a drug supplier and sell drugs within Vineland Boys territory, operate drug and firearms stash locations, and enforce the gang’s extortion of drug dealers, including through violence.
In his plea agreement, Espinosa admitted to committing a series of criminal activities, including a March 2016 meeting in which he discussed an incident in which he and another Vineland Boys gang member held a gun to the head of an individual in a back-alley confrontation.
Espinosa also admitted to engaging in a drug deal in June 2016, in which he and a co-defendant sold approximately 112 grams of methamphetamine to a buyer who paid $700.
In 2019, a federal grand jury indicted 31 Vineland Boys members and associates. So far, federal prosecutors have secured 29 convictions in this case, including 14 convictions that have resulted in prison sentences of at least 10 years. One of them, Vineland Boys gang member Jesus Gonzalez Jr., 29, “Lil Chito,” “Gunner” and “Chuy,” of Sun Valley, is serving a 31-year federal prison sentence for committing multiple felonies, including the attempted murders of three rival gangsters.
This case’s lead defendant, Mario Alberto Miranda, 31, of Sherman Oaks, an alleged Vineland Boys shot caller, and Ulises Botello, 46, of Palmdale, are scheduled to go to trial in October 2023 on racketeering conspiracy and narcotics charges.
The FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, IRS Criminal Investigation and the Los Angeles Police Department investigated this matter. This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
Assistant United States Attorneys Jennifer Chou and Sara Vargas of the Violent and Organized Crime Section are prosecuting this case.