Seven Los Angeles men were charged in a federal indictment with firebombing the homes of Black residents in the Boyle Heights area two years ago in an effort to drive them out of the defendants’ Hispanic gang territory, prosecutors announced.
The men were named in an indictment handed down June 22 and unsealed July 7. They were charged in connection with the May 12, 2014, firebombings in the Ramona Gardens housing project.
Prosecutors said 31-year-old Carlos Hernandez led a meeting of fellow gang members in early May 2014, when they plotted to hurl Molotov cocktails into units at Ramona Gardens, with the plan aimed at getting “the (N-words) out of the neighborhood.”
Hernandez and the other defendants met again on May 11, 2014, and Hernandez distributed materials to be used during the firebombings, including disguises and gloves, prosecutors said.
“The defendants used firebombs to drive the victims from their homesbecause of their race,” according to Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“This is a hate crime. Such violence and intimidation have no place in our society.”
The firebombings were carried out shortly after midnight on May 12, 2014. Fire officials said at the time there were no injuries, and only “minimal damage” was reported.
In addition to Hernandez, the federal indictment also names Jose Saucedo, 22; Francisco Farias, 25; Joseue Garibay, 23; Edwin Felix, 23; Jonathan Portillo, 21; and Joel Matthew Monarrez, 21. They were all charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights; conspiracy to use fire and carry explosives to commit another federal felony; attempted arson of federal property; using fire and carrying explosives to commit another federal felony; aiding and abetting; and violent crime in aid of racketeering and interference with housing rights.
Hernandez and Farias were also charged with possessing, using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. Felix was also charged with making a false statement to the FBI.
Saucedo, Garibay, Portillo and Monarrez are facing up to 110 years in prison if convicted. Hernandez and Farias face up to life in prison, and Felix faces up to 115 years.
“I am very proud of the partnerships between our agencies that enabled us to investigate and apprehend these violent offenders who preyed upon our community in a manner that will not be tolerated,” Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said.