Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, June 19, 2011

California Gangs form alliance with Mexican cartel, becoming more sophisticated in trafficking drugs, guns, people

By Scott Johnson
Oakland Tribune

Evidence is increasing that California prison gangs are forging close relationships with powerful drug-trafficking cartels in Mexico, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and gang experts who say the relationships have moved into a dangerous new area as Mexican cartels and American gangs swap tactical information, share intelligence and exchange techniques to avoid detection.

"What we're seeing is that highly sophisticated gangs, operating out of the prison system or from cartels in Mexico, are shot-calling, and then farming out the work to local street gangs in California, like the Norteños," state Attorney General Kamala Harris said recently by phone from Los Banos, the scene of a large anti-gang operation June 7.

Increased cooperation across borders and among organized crime syndicates threatens California in new ways, officials say. As evidence, they point to the beginnings of a spillover into this country of the sort of violence that has pitted cartels against the Mexican government and army.

Historically, the term "transnational gang" has been used by academics and law enforcement officials to refer to the spread of such Central American gangs as Mara Salvatrucha into North Carolina, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Those gangs were formed in part by refugees who had fled the wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras in the 1980s and were deported back to their home countries. Many formed gangs to protect themselves. But they also exported violence.

A January report from the Congressional Research Service found that transnational gangs continue to expand, and over the past three years Congress has allocated more than $100 million to combat their growth in Central America and the U.S.
Harris said the term should be expanded to include the kind of cooperation she said is growing between California prison gangs and Mexican cartels that regularly traffic drugs, weapons and human beings across the U.S. border.
"There is good reason to connect the activities of these gang members here with Mexico," Harris said. "I think they're very connected."

The raid

Just after 7 a.m. June 7 in Los Banos, a quiet Central Valley town, a dozen police officers in dark blue jumpsuits, SWAT gear and M-4 assault rifles loaded into four unmarked police trucks in the parking lot of a Carl's Jr. They rolled through a quiet suburb of one-story ranch houses, European automobiles and leafy streets. Weapons ready, they knocked loudly at the door of a nondescript residence, and when a hefty Latino man in his mid-30s answered, they arrested him and quickly moved on.

Before the day was over, an additional 74 men would be taken in raids across the Central Valley in the largest gang sweep in California this year, according to detectives involved in the raid. More than 250 officers from 16 state and federal agencies swept into communities in two counties looking for members of a notorious California prison gang, Nuestra Familia, and its street affiliate, the Norteños.

The operation, "Red Zone," was the latest continuation of a two-year Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement investigation into what Harris calls "the scourge of transnational gangs." Two days later, a similar operation in Tracy netted 30 more alleged gang members.

Harris said she has made tackling transnational gangs a priority since her term began in January. Two major crackdowns, one in May and another in June, have resulted in almost 200 arrests of alleged gang members, and the seizure of about 200 pounds of methamphetamine.

After members of the Arrellano Felix cartel attempted to assassinate five members of a family in Palmdale, near Los Angeles, in February, Harris traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to announce the expansion of a multiagency task force in Imperial County, along the border, to target transnational gangs.

Tracking gangs

Operation Red Zone was the latest sting in a two-year effort that provides a window into how the shift in gang methods may be taking place.

Officers from the Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement began tracking an increase in Norteño-related slayings in Salinas in October 2009.
There, Norteños and members of Nuestra Familia were importing up to 20 pounds of methamphetamine per week and distributing it regionally. As a result, police say, the homicide rate there doubled from 2007 to 2009, increasing to four times the national average.

When law enforcement caught on, many gang members fled. Some sought safety in the flat plains and farms of the Central Valley, in and around Los Banos, in Merced County. Nuestra Familia, meanwhile, was struggling to get a foothold in the rural areas. But the team that was tracking them in Salinas followed them as they moved east.

What they started to see worried them. Nuestra Familia has established networks all over Northern California and well into Oregon, Illinois, Texas, Colorado and Utah.

The gang also had regimental commanders in several California counties. The ties to the East Bay were also deep and well-entrenched. Detectives found connections to Oakland, Tracy, Concord and Morgan Hill on a regular basis.

In the Salinas takedown in May 2010, the team arrested Martin Mentoya, also known as "Cyclone," the regimental commander for the East Bay, responsible for Hayward, Oakland and Richmond. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms later indicted Mentoya on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Mentoya was also charged with two counts of firebombing.

"In Los Banos, they were working with people in the Bay Area to share resources," said Dean Johnston, the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement special agent supervisor and lead investigator on the recent operations. "It's part of a criminal organization; they all agree to help each other."

More distressing still were the ties to Mexico, which were more sophisticated than expected. "They're doing things proactively now to cooperate with each other," Johnston said. "Now there are signs these gangs are working with the cartels, and it's more sophisticated than we've seen before."

This strategic partnership appears to mirror a dramatic rise in methamphetamine production in Mexico. According to Malcolm Beith, author of "The Last Narco," a recent book about the drug war in Mexico, meth production in Mexico has soared since 2003, largely due to U.S. demand. In 2007, the Mexican army seized 22 meth labs. This year, it has already seized 89 -- an increase officials say signals radically increased production. One lab in Sinaloa was producing about 20 tons of meth annually at an estimated street value of $700 million.

Making connections

The Nuestra Familia and Norteño members found what they thought was a shelter from law enforcement in the rural communities of the Central Valley. Many lived in nice suburban homes. It was quiet. The detectives began to piece together a picture of how the two organizations are working together. In the past, Johnston said, the cartels would only sell the narcotics that U.S. buyers could pay for up front. Now, he said, the Mexican cartels "are opening lines by giving them fronted amounts of drugs. They're helping them out, not just selling to them, and that's a big change."

Johnston said the cartel leaders have been reassured somewhat by the reputation Norteños have for being honest about their drug trafficking. Whereas other groups may cut their drugs with other products to increase their profit margins, Norteños do not.

"Nuestra Familia guarantees its product," the detective said. "If people complain about their ability to consume it, they'll return it. They're very strict on the quality of their substance."

This has also reassured the cartels, officials say.

"Recently, these drug-trafficking cartels are making large amounts of meth available to the gangs," Johnston said. "They're saying, 'We know you guys are good for it,' and that's a big difference."

Officials say they have also seen the cartels and the gangs getting more sophisticated. Detectives watched traffickers falsify tags on vehicles to bring cars across the U.S. border from Mexico. A Mexican official with access to vehicle registration was on their payroll. U.S. Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement officials said the Mexican official was getting paid $400 for each vehicle registration change. At least three registrations were changed. Nuestra Familia also began wiring money into bank accounts instead of dealing in cash transactions.

One of the most worrying developments was the sophistication of countersurveillance techniques adopted by the gangs.

"They were driving to meet locations and purposefully trying to avoid detection," Johnston said. "They never used to do that."

The more time and exposure the U.S. gangs had to Mexican cartels, the more they tended to adopt the methodology of the cartels, he said.

"The gangs are doing things now that we've seen the major drug-trafficking organizations do. They're learning our techniques, in part, and they're also learning new stuff from the cartels."

Officials say the effects of the recent raid will be felt statewide. Gangs and the Mexican cartels have national reach. They dabble in a multitude of transjurisdictional crimes, including weapons and the illegal trade of human beings, including children for the sex trade. Throughout, Nuestra Familia helps smooth transactions.

In the Los Banos case, for example, Norteños from Merced had purchased an AK-47, but didn't have ammunition for it. They reached out to Morgan Hill Norteños, who supplied them with bullets.

Johnston said he often sees guns used in crimes in the East Bay that resurface months later three counties away, having essentially been "washed" by crossing the county line.

"This is not just about one region," Harris said. "An operation like this affects the entire state."



  2. These fucken pieces of shit need to be killed, fuck prison life.

  3. I feel really sick. Why does the U.S. try to make everyone (perhaps even themselves) believe there is no spill-over?

  4. Orale homes "puro vato loco" arriba 13 arriba 14 lets make cali like tamaulipas. There are so many mexicans in Cali's prison's they had to divide themselves by north and south. So many chicanos believe in that brown-pride, aztlan bullshit just watch Univision Telemundo Televisa TV Azteca and see how many people look like you.

  5. Wow, I remember Los Banos as being peaceful back in the 70's. We need to CLOSE THE BORDERS DOWN!!!!
    NO ONE IN OR OUT!!!! Treat the borderlines like a war zone.SHOOT ALL WHO COMES ACROSS. All US gangbangers ship them to Mexico and don't let them back into the US. To the Dad's and Mom's do you know what your children are turning into? Stop having kids

  6. i live in merced and its very close to los banos theres a lot cholos, asains gansters and black thugs. they think they are the shit they allways want to start problems with anyone they think im scared of them i workout everyday i am boxer..them with there lil smoking lungs fucken hate cholos espically make us look bad.. i cant wait till the first cholo guy who gets in my way.

  7. Just look at that dislexic mongaloit,picture of a bearded BANGER, how do humans ever get so weirded out??? Talk about usless and whats worse we have to pay to arrest and house these ingrates, do they ever realize what they are???

  8. Fuck the last comment. How about all the WHITE KIDS doing all the school shootings. Why don't we send them to Mexico to see if there that bad ass.Fuckin honky tonk dumb ass. Americans (White people) are the number one consumer of drugs.I don't care what anyone says that's the real problem. Americans are always trying to blame other countries other races for there problems.America needs to worry about our children,education,poverty,our economy.

  9. Mexican gangsters have been the leading cause of violence in CA for a decade. Problem is most of them are born in America and have no link to the cartels, other than maybe getting their drugs from em. Salinas was the murder capital years ago, long before this supposed link was established. So they are learning evasion techniques? Big deal. These guys still get their guns from the good ol US of A. This is not spillover violence

  10. AG Kamala Harris must step up for the State of California! Her law enforcement arm of DOJ has historically and consistently ignored and resisted in allying with law enforcement against gangs, cartels and border violence. She is jumping on the same bandwagon as the rest of our politicians as the war south of us continues to grow out of control.

    AG Harris. take a good look at your Agency's history in this battle and you will be greatly embarrassed. DOJ has sacrificed public safety for chasing money and political favoritism. Leadership and "Doing the Right Thing" is your challenge and is what California needs most.

    AG Harris, until you do, DOJ will continue to chase fraudulent recycling gangs who do not hurt anyone but themselves on the sharp edges of glass bottles and aluminum cans!

  11. What is the responsibility of being a citizen of the USA, YOU CONTRIBUTE, do not be a drag on everybody who does their part. Liberal mindset has created a situation where the percentage of Non Contributing people is increasing, THESE GANG BANGERS are a great example. Hoards of misdirected people who identify with violence,crime and living off the System,they have no identy as productive contributing citizens, and our Govt policys not only tolerate this behavior but subsadize it. Where else can these people exist other than California, the most BANKRUPT State in the US also the most liberal welfare state. CUT OFF THE MONEY MAKE THESE PEOPLE WORK THERE ASSES OFF 6 DAYS A WEEK, they will be to tired to sit aroung drinking beer,getting tatoos and posing for cameras. Some Ethnic clensing is in order.

  12. 7 49 Your an idiot ; I know plenty of blacks and latinos who do drugs. Drug use is wide spread in all races. The guy (7 43) dissing your bf with the nerdy glasses in the first pic mustve really pissed you off to the extent that u make lame and ignorant comments. No seas pendejo

  13. @7:49AM,

    Obviously you have a chip on your shoulder, when it comes to "white people." You kinda contradict yourself, when you say "white people" are always blaming other countries and races for their problems. The fact is "white people" aren't in Mexico torturing and murdering Mexicans! Fact is "white people" aren't forcing Hispanics to join local California gangs to do Mexican drug cartel business! The bottom line.. race has nothing to do with it..the problem is pure greed..anybody involved in the drug business is in it for the money, pure and simple.

    1. yes in it for the money & i will add they are proud doing the devils work. Gangs are from hell....they have made a pack with the devil

  14. What cartel are they allied with?

  15. stop being ignorant, every race does drugs, look at boys in the hood, rick ross situation, look at all the white tweakers in the middle of the country, and all the kids in mex. getting high. Ur nutz if you think that.. Ignorance.. Anyways what cartel did they link up with? Obviously this has already been going on for awhile, how do you think all that hits the streets from down south? Look at the cartel hired that guy david ramirez. Also they hired the guys from texas, im drawing a blank now...bario azteca.. not suprised at all......

  16. Just look at that dislexic mongaloit,picture

    What's a " mongaloit"?

  17. i agree with you 10:47....F**K $Krapz and Bu$terz

  18. Man, I'd knock that faggot out with one shot to that weak-ass chin. I hate fuckin gangsters, lame-ass homos who can't fight worth shit. Have you ever seen them fight? They bend down and swing all wild with no telling where his punches land. Piece of shit. Pura gente pendeja.

  19. Old news. Where do you think the Mexican mafia and Texas syndicate and other prison gangs get their product to sell?

  20. Some will blame social issues, but really, if we were truthful, it has nothing to do with it. Just look at the guy. This is about ego. It is about character, and how he has a very small one. His problem is that he is such a dick. And that is why he has turned to crime. He is such a drama queen, in need of attention, and is frustrated as he has nothing in him that would make people want him to be the center of it all. So like all annoying dick's they turn to gangs.

    Just think how much of our money has to go and pay to keep that little boy in a big man's jail. He was so inadequate in his life, that he could not provide even for himself, without crime, and now we have to pick up the bill for him now. Some people are born unable to wipe their own backsides. This guy is one of them. He is a prize douchebag. I think we should bring back chain gangs.

  21. @7.49. Very funny. laughed so much. Can we have some more please? I come to this site for comments like that. Car crash TV at it's finest. You are so obviously one of these wanna be idiots. Show us where we can see your gangster shot? You've taken one. Go on, show us. We'd love to see it.

    You talk about "Americans" in a way which indicates to us that you think we all hang out together. There are 300 million people in the USA, and I have to inform you that we do not all hang out together, or keep in touch on facebook. Most people have about 200-500 people that they know in their life times.

    Secondly, the level of drug usage among Mexicans and Americans is identical, and so to claim that it is only the USA demanding drugs is just silly. Kids are kids the world over, and they all want to get a little high.

  22. In a whole, America, and the rest of the world has gotten tolerant of all kinds of behaviour. It starts at home, and at home, "Mommies and Daddies" are having children younger and younge every year. These "kids having kids" is some of the issue. They are just not mature enough to have children yet. Most, not all, are still out drinking and partying and having a gay ole time. While back at the ranch, junior is being raised by the Television,,Iphones to Text on, the XBOX, the Internet, and so forth and so on, and you can see things on regular TV that used to be only on cable, and the internet, well they can learn anything. People hide behind their computers (just like I`m doing) and say things they normally wouldn`t spew out of their mouths in front of adults. Thus the cycle of downward spiral of moral compass. Society as a whole has say back and let people use the "Freedom of Speech" right to put forth more and more morally questionable programs, and pictures, and internet sites and video games. No, I`m not a bible thumper, my kids have some of those games, but they bought them when they where over 16,not that that makes me any less culpable. Everytime some Right wing person wants to limit something, some Left wing person wants to scream Freedom of speech. Their has to be a middle ground between the two. I believe in freedom of speech, I believe that censoring some things to minors is ok. So, I`m torn as to how hypocritical that makes me. On to a different subject. I`ve done some research on the fields, so my take is this, yes, White, middle America kids DO DRUGS. Just like inner city kids do as well. The problem that gets certain ethnic groups riled up here is that the majority of the ethnic groups using drugs AND selling them are Hispanics and Blacks. In Californi, Arizona , and Texas, it is predominantly Hispanics, especially in border regions. The incarcerated on drug violations numbers show that the overwhelming percentage of people in jail on these violations are Hispanic and Blacks. YES, their are white people as well in jail for drug crimes. The numbers , and their`s too much info to post here, but the numbers do reveal that ratio of Hispanics to whites in prison or county jails as two to one Hispanics to Whites. Now, that isn`t a slight on any race becaus ANY person doing, selling, using DRUGS is a sorry human, no matter what ethnicity, so don`t play the race card their, you won`t get sympathy from me. Whites, Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, whichever Ethnic group is selling drugs is a sorry PERSON,not necessarily race, it just so happens that culturally, certain races aren`t as appalled by their young selling, or doing drugs as other races are, therefore, that gets into a cultural debate really quick. It`s eye opening research. Just take the time and google some of it and you`ll draw your own conclusions. I expect backlash on this, but it doesn`t matter to me. I`m fine with my Hispanic heritage that takes pride in themselves, the others, I just don`t associate with, the same as white people, the ones who are respectable, contributing members of society, I` deal with, the rest, oh well. That goes for any race. If you treat me with respect, you get the same respect back. But first and foremost, you must have self-respect. And that`s hard to find these days.

  23. @7:49- Americans (white people) WTH??? I`m of Hispanic descent, brown as dirt, Mexican name, born in Texas, North Texas near Denton no less. Does that mean I`m not American cause I`m not "White People"??? What a Racist bigot!!!

  24. June 21, 2011 7:09 AM wrote more than overmexx no one wants to read it

  25. To the Hispanic (Latino) who posted at 11:24 6-20-11.

    I too am Latino (Mexican-American) and agree with you 120%. I am disgusted with how these low-life Latino thugs have hi-jacked out culture. Every point you make in your post is the truth. It is a very serious problem for us that we must first recognize with a "Ya Basta!" attitude.

    We must drop applying "prevention" and "rehabilitation" ideas from the past that are mere palliatives designed by academics and politicians who don't know shit about street realities.

    Barrio criminals and their urban terrorist culture poison the homes and streets of our neighborhoods.

    I don't have answers, but I know that we need to first "truly" recognize the poison's characteristics. This is not kid stuff involving "boys and girls" like politicians are so ready to say.

    Again, my friend, we are kindred souls and I;m sure there are many more Latinos who agree with you. Not to be concerned. Keep posting!


    1. Thank You! You make some really good points. I was a poor white kid (parents were European immigrants) who grew up in a CA barrio surrounded by Mexican gang activity and crime. Let's just say it was unpleasant.

      Bottom line, there needs to be more law enforcement directed at these problems. AND more Latinos, instead of making excuses for these assholes, or blaming "the system," need to actually admit that there is a problem with gang culture.

      I've tried to talk to Latinos and academics about central CA gang activity and they all assure me that I'm being "racist" "not seeing the root of the problem---capitalism of course" and these are "vulnerable kids and people who need more welfare and education, not discipline". BULL. We can't educate people whose culture doesn't value education. These people, as you say, have no clue about street reality---or they are being dishonest.

      I'm tired of gang criminal activity in my area. I don't see CA doing anything meaningful to fight it. Frankly, SWAT sweeps like this should happen alot more often. I'm moving out of state--CA will lose another taxpayer.

  26. Thanks for noticing, but actually, if you looked Ovemex didn`t write anything. Scott Johnson of the Oakland Tribune did.

  27. In general, humans are looking to overpower other humans in any way shape or form. This ideology has expanded beyond the threshold of race because this isn't the only example of such practices. The easiest method to solve these types of problems would be genocide on a large scale without prejudice, but that would make us worse then the criminal mind. Rehabilitation only works for those who aren't entirely under the influence of gang activity but many fake it to get out and continue life as they knew it. Not to say that all of the work to shut this down is for nothing, but there won't be an answer that doesn't involve some type of super-left or extreme-right ideal. To really combat the situation, it's going to have to take two strong government forces to collaborate and organize sanctions that would eliminate the products, not the criminals, that way they would be forced back into petty crimes as opposed to what they have now. The other option/portion is that these types of consequences should have lethal penalties for those that are in control and harsher (if not inhumane) approaches should be done to those who are active in such gangs without judgement. Again, it makes the civilized no more respectable then the gang bangers, but until a diplomatic solution graces us from a superhuman mouth, we may have run out of options.

  28. O chucks I see now.. fuck idiots all that shot is ridiculous I'm a ex gang member been in prison and am well off without that shit, but I just want say fuck all the gang bullshit live as a man and not a puppet and you'll become a man

  29. It's just the begining, the Feds make me laugh! Eastside Stockton NF regiment to Sinaloa and back,mucho respecto.

  30. East side bulldogs !!!! My nigg

  31. siete i più forti,e stò allargando il vostro credo e potere in italia. NUESTRA FAMILIA FOR EVER..FROM ITALY.

  32. They think were a bunch of lame farmers from up north

  33. Representing" NORTENO dwn here in texas!!! 510 ESO NORTENO X4 Frm Tha Bay Area. SK EVERY DAY""

  34. don't worry it will all be over soon. they say the riots in america will be the worst when the social security adminitration go's bankrupy or when the middle east starts demanding gold for oil in stead of worthlest american dollar.this will all be mexico again someday like it or not.don't belive me all great civilization run there course to ruins.sometimes overnight sometime over years( rome didn't fall in a day)it a matter of fact.


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