Mexican Mafia case ends

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Mexican Mafia case ends

Post  Ty on Fri Apr 18, 2008 8:49 am

Plea deals reached in murder-for-hire case involving Mexican Mafia, tribal members

10:35 PM PDT on Thursday, April 17, 2008
The Press-Enterprise
Two San Manuel tribal members and a purported Mexican Mafia kingpin pleaded guilty Thursday in a murder-for-hire case.

Salvador Hernandez, a 43-year-old Bloomington resident identified by authorities as a Mexican Mafia leader, agreed to a 10-year prison sentence. He received five years for attempted murder and another five years for criminal gang activity.

The tribal members, Stacy Cheyenne Barajas-Nunez, 25, and her brother Erik Barajas, 35, signed deals that will allow them to remain at home and be monitored electronically. Barajas-Nunez agreed to a 365-day home detention sentence and her brother agreed to 180 days along with multiple other conditions.

The plea agreements are the latest developments in a high-profile case that has raised questions about ties between the wealthy San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which runs a popular San Bernardino-area casino, and criminal gangs. Tribal members have said they're afraid for their safety on the reservation and have hired extra security because of the gang influence.

Barajas-Nunez, Hernandez and Hernandez's brother, Alfred Orozco Hernandez, all pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted murder and admitted to gang activity in connection with a plot in September 2006 to kill a manager of a Highland bar.

Story continues below

Defendants, from left, Erik Barajas, Stacy Barajas-Nunez, Alfred Hernandez and Salvador Hernandez all pleaded guilty in a murder-for-hire case.
Barajas-Nunez also pleaded guilty Thursday to two drug charges. Her brother pleaded guilty to an assault with a deadly weapon charge in connection with the murder-for-hire scheme.

Alfred Hernandez, 39, pleaded guilty to an attempted murder charge as well as admitting criminal gang activity. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to be sentenced to nine years in prison in August.

Authorities uncovered the murder-for-hire plot while investigating the drug trade in the San Bernardino area. The defendants were arrested in December 2006 as part of a massive drug bust led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Several reservation homes were raided.

Authorities made 19 arrests and seized more than $1 million in methamphetamine and cash as well as 56 guns in raids throughout the San Bernardino area.

Money Ties to End

The tribe runs the popular San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino near San Bernardino, and members receive $100,000 in monthly checks. Law enforcement authorities have said gangs are extorting tribal members for money, and Barajas-Nunez's mother admitted previously that she helped the Hernandez family out financially.

Barajas-Nunez's attorney, Albert Perez Jr., said those days are over for Barajas-Nunez.

"They're saying they're going to get out of the (gang) lifestyle," he said. She doesn't want to have contact with gang members, he added.

Barajas-Nunez and Barajas both will have to register with local law enforcement as gang offenders under the terms of their deals, which also requires them to not associate with gang members. Barajas-Nunez also has to register as a drug offender.

Barajas-Nunez's mother, Rachael Barajas, has defended her daughter's friendships with gang members in the past, but Perez said Thursday that Barajas-Nunez knows now she has to cut her ties.

Barajas-Nunez is taking a huge risk by ending her ties to gang members and financial support of them, Perez said. Jail correspondence in the case files makes repeated references to financial assistance Barajas-Nunez has provided to the Hernandez family and others.

Barajas-Nunez and her brother plan to move out of the area eventually, Perez said.

Barajas' attorney, Chuck Nacsin, said the target in the murder-for-hire never was in any real danger, but his client has "accepted whatever responsibility he had."

"It's an unfortunate situation," Nacsin said.

Barajas family members declined to comment Thursday .

The defendants will have to report Aug. 7 for sentencing and will be subject to stiffer penalties if they violate the terms of their agreements. They must report to the probation department by noon Monday, said San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael Dest.

"If I find a violation, all bets are off," he said, noting he could sentence Barajas-Nunez to up to 21 years in prison if she doesn't hold up her end of the agreement.

Send a Message

The pleas followed nearly five hours of haggling among the defense attorneys and the San Bernardino County district attorney's office. The attorneys conferred with Salvador Hernandez, who was wearing a red high-security jumpsuit, before completing the agreements.

Doug Poston, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, said he was pleased with Thursday's outcome and wants tribal members to know authorities don't want them bringing criminal elements onto the reservation.

"Today sent a message," he said. "I hope that we've done everything we can in this case to rid that problem from Indian land and Indian business."

Poston said he has noticed recent efforts by tribal leaders to crack down on the problems at the reservation, where he said tribal members with lots of gambling profits sometimes make bad decisions.

Catherine Fox, who represented Salvador Hernandez, described the prosecutor's case as "weak" and said her client accepted the plea to get the case over with. Fox acknowledged that the district attorney's office has been intent on prosecuting her client.

Janette Amaya, 51, also pleaded guilty in the case Thursday.

Amaya pleaded guilty to one charge of transporting methamphetamine and the sentencing enhancement of criminal gang activity. She pleaded no contest to a forgery charge in a separate case. She will be sentenced to probation when she returns to court Aug. 7.

Closing cases

Four tied to `Mafia' take pleas
Mike Cruz and Joe Nelson, Staff Writers
Article Launched: 04/17/2008 11:25:59 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO - Two Mexican Mafia gang members and a pair of San Manuel tribal members were among a group who took plea bargains Thursday stemming from a San Bernardino narcotics sweep in 2006.
After weeks of negotiations with prosecutors, reputed Mexican Mafia shotcaller Salvador Hernandez and his brother, Alfred Hernandez, each pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder with a street gang enhancement.

Salvador Hernandez, 43, will receive 10 years in state prison, under the terms of the plea bargain. His 39-year-old younger brother will be sentenced to nine years.

Tribal members Stacy Nunez, 25, and her brother Erik Barajas, 35, will each receive five years probation and some jail time.

The defendants

Defendants involved in the "Mexican Mafia Case" Alfred Hernandez,left, and Salvador Hernandez,right, appear in San Bernardino Superior Court, Thursday, April 17, 2008. Eric Reed/Staff photographer
were among a group of six people who took plea bargains Thursday in Superior Court in San Bernardino.
The case is connected to a narcotics sweep in December 2006 targeting a local drug ring, which authorities said was overseen by the Mexican Mafia and included San Manuel tribal members.

Prosecutors were confident they would have achieved convictions had the case gone to trial.

They said they hoped the sentences will be a successful step toward reducing crime on the reservation.

"We don't want folks associating with or otherwise bringing the criminal element onto or into businesses concerned with the San Manuel tribe," said Deputy District Attorney Douglas Poston, who prosecuted the case.

The attempted-murder count is related to the attempts by the Hernandez brothers, Nunez and Barajas - as a group - to have an unidentified man killed in 2006, prosecutors said.
The tribe had no input on the plea bargains and sentences, which Poston said were appropriate.

Defense lawyer Albert Perez said his client, Nunez, faced 21 years to life in prison if the case had gone to trial.

"She's happy it's over," Perez said, after the court proceedings. "She's not happy she had to plead guilty, but she's happy it's over."

Nunez pleaded guilty to attempted murder with a street gang enhancement, transportation of a controlled substance for sale, and possession of drugs in the jail.

Perez said he was unsure what impact, if any, the guilty plea and sentence would have on Nunez's status with the tribe.

Nunez will serve her one year of jail time via electronic monitoring at her home, if approved by the court.

Also a tribal member, Barajas pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon with a street gang enhancement.

He will have to serve 180 days, which could also be done through electronic monitoring.

Salvador Hernandez's lawyer Catherine Fox said her client wanted the resolution.

James Taylor, who represented Alfred Hernandez, said his client was facing up to life in prison, and now may be able to go home after seven years in prison.

"It was something they could all digest," Taylor said. "I wouldn't say that they're happy."

Another defendant, Jeanette Amaya, 51, also pleaded guilty to charges involving controlled substances and a street gang enhancement. She will receive five years probation in the drug case and not receive any credit for the near six months she already served.

Sentencing for all six defendants will be Aug. 7 in Superior Court.

Four other defendants - Jennifer Murphy, 27, Jesus Leyva, 34, Pedro Perez, 32, and Anthony Maestas, 33 - had pleaded guilty in earlier court proceedings.

Although tribal officials declined to comment on the matter Thursday, Chairman James Ramos said in a written statement: "The personal conduct of Stacy and Erik Barajas has no connection to the San Manuel Tribal Government or to the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, and therefore it would not be appropriate for us to comment on their cases."

Ramos has encountered problems of his own with the Barajas clan in the last year.

In November, he sought a restraining order against Nunez and her father, Kenneth Barajas, alleging they threatened him during a tribal council meeting and he feared for his life and the safety of his family.

A judge granted the restraining order against Kenneth Barajas in December, but his daughter was dropped from the restraining order case as a compromise to settle the matter, Ramos' attorney, Patrick Silva, said at the time.

The incident shook Ramos up so much he hired someone to stand guard outside his home.

A seven-month investigation by police and Drug Enforcement Administration agents into the Mexican Mafia's methamphetamine business in San Bernardino culminated in a raid in December 2006 of homes across the county and on the San Manuel reservation.

Dozens of people were arrested in the sweep.

Salvador Hernandez has been identified in DEA documents and by county prosecutors as the reputed Mexican Mafia's "shotcaller" for the San Bernardino area, meaning he collects taxes - a percentage of cash profits from the sale of methamphetamine - from Latino gangs in the city. He can also authorize killings.

According to DEA documents, Nunez is an associate of the Mexican Mafia.

She paid $5,000 in rent at one time for one gang member serving time at Oak Glen State Prison, and has bought cars for other gang members.

During the investigation, undercover DEA agents watching Salvador Hernandez spotted him driving a black Dodge Infinity work truck that was registered to Nunez, court records show.

Authorities also learned during the investigation of the growing concern that gang members were infiltrating the reservation.

One DEA document details an October 2006 meeting on the reservation between tribal security officers, San Bernardino police officers and DEA agents.

Kevin Villalobos, then a lieutenant with the tribe's security force, told agents and police that gang members had "infiltrated the reservation and were extorting some of the tribal members for money.

Villalobos told investigators that tribal members including Nunez and Erik Barajas brought problems to the reservation due to their interaction with gang members and allowing them onto the reservation and into their homes, according to DEA documents.

Reached by telephone this week, Villalobos declined comment.

So now they gonna just cut ties with 7th street? Who would have thought they would renounce their gang ties when faced with losing a $100,000 month? You hear that? That's the sound of somebody counting cash in the backroom down at the DA's office. This was a classic RICO case and they blew it. You had multiple counts of attempted murder, a million dollar drug ring, gang allegations, 1 murder for hire (James Seay not included in the indictment) and possible money laundering and all you get is a 10, and a 9 year sentence on two parolees who are members of a prison gang no less, looking at all day and this is the best you get? That 18 month home detention shot ain't gonna do nothin. How you going to enforce it, they live on the resrevation which is soverign land? It's not enforceable except by the tribal authorities and we've already seen they can't or won't even control what goes on in the casino. This is a joke. So they just gonna let a murder go un-prosecuted, yet you got half the eastside of San Bernardino indicted over Minisha Crenshaw but the San Manuel's put a hit out on James and that's cool? Ya'll better start contributing to the election campaign's of some of these politicians so you can get these types of sentencing breaks.


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Re: Mexican Mafia case ends

Post  {~Vicente~} on Sat Aug 02, 2008 7:02 am


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