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Friday, 24 October 2008

"Slow Pain," "Psycho" and "Kapone" operated in a violent, Mission District street gang that shook down drug dealers,

"Slow Pain," "Psycho" and "Kapone" operated in a violent, Mission District street gang that shook down drug dealers, punished suspected informants and resorted to murder to eliminate rival gang members, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday. The indictment filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco accuses 29 people allegedly tied to the notorious Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 gang of engaging in murder, attempted murder, drug trafficking, witness tampering, car theft and extortion.Those indicted include alleged senior leaders in San Francisco's faction of the MS-13 gang, which originated in Los Angeles, has ties to El Salvador and is renowned for its savage tactics, federal prosecutors said.Most recently, authorities say, members of the faction, known as 20th Street clique, have been tied to at least five slayings in the city, including the June 22 killings in the Excelsior district of Tony Bologna, 48, and his sons Michael, 20, and Matthew, 16. Police say the killer was trying to avenge a gang shooting from earlier in the day and mistook the Bolognas for rivals.An alleged MS-13 member, Edwin Ramos, has been charged with three counts of murder and has pleaded not guilty.The indictment ties members of the gang to two other San Francisco slayings: the July 31 stabbing death of 14-year-old Ivan Miranda during a robbery in the Excelsior involving an iPod, and the July 11 shooting of Armando Estrada, 30, of Rodeo, at 20th and Mission streets, officials said. Guillermo Herrera, 20, was identified in the federal indictment as the gunman in that killing, which occurred on turf the gang claims as its own.Walter Chinchilla-Linar, 22, and Cesar Alvarado, 18, reputed members of the gang, face federal charges in Miranda's death. Two juveniles, ages 16 and 17, also were charged Thursday in state court with Miranda's killing, the district attorney said.The latest arrests culminated a three-year investigation dubbed "Operation Devil Horns" - a reference to MS-13's gang sign - in which federal authorities set up an export warehouse in Richmond where undercover agents bought several guns and 16 vehicles allegedly stolen by gang members and their associates, prosecutors said. U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello, who alternatively referred to the suspects as hoodlums and thugs, hailed the arrests as a major takedown of gang members during a press conference Thursday at which he was joined by San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris and Police Chief Heather Fong. Twenty-two of those indicted face federal racketeering charges, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. The other seven are accused of committing 17 separate violent crimes, including one count involving murder, to assist racketeering. Prosecutors will seek "maximum possible penalties so we don't have to play cat and mouse in the future," Russoniello said.
All told, 31 people with suspected ties to the gang have been charged in the recent sweep. Two others were charged separately from the 29 suspects who were indicted. Of the total, 15 were already in custody in separate cases, while three remain at large, federal authorities said. One suspect, John Briez, was arrested in Guam after boarding a flight bound for the Philippines Tuesday evening, said Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Briez had more than $10,000 cash on him when he was arrested by federal agents, Kice said.
Most of the arrests were made in raids Wednesday in San Francisco, Richmond, South San Francisco, Reno and elsewhere. The raids were denounced as heavy-handed by immigrant rights groups. Some San Francisco supervisors and candidates for supervisor seats also were critical of the raids. Supervisor Tom Ammiano's office issued a statement saying federal agents brutally attacked a woman during one raid, "causing her to lose consciousness and require hospitalization."ICE agent Mark Wollman disputed that account, saying the woman fainted, was treated by medical personnel already on call, and released.At one Bayview home, Alexander Revelo said agents awakened him at about 6:30 a.m., handcuffed him, and marched him into his yard. Revelo, 22, a former Mervyns sales representative in the process of enrolling in City College of San Francisco, said police searched him for tattoos, seized his computer, left his room a mess and checked his criminal record, which came back clean."Being born here and growing up here, not having a criminal record at all, and I'm handcuffed outside my house in front of my family?" he said. "I don't think they had any right to handcuff me."Russoniello said he was sympathetic to innocent people embroiled in police operations, but agents are going after dangerous "gangsters" and "may not be in the most sensitive or compassionate mode."


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