Two gang members pleaded guilty this week to federal civil rights and racketeering violations for firebombing the homes of Black residents in the Boyle Heights area four years ago in an effort to drive them out of the defendants’ Latino gang territory.
Edwin “Boogie’’ Felix, 26, and Jonathan “Pelon’’ Portillo, 23, are expected to be sentenced Oct. 1 for their role in the plot to target the apartments in the Ramona Gardens housing complex because of the occupants’ race and color, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In the early morning hours of May 12, 2014, eight members of the Big Hazard street gang, which claims Ramona Gardens as its territory, prepared Molotov cocktails, smashed the windows of four apartments and threw the lit firebombs into the units, prosecutors said.
Three of the four targeted apartments were occupied by black families, including women and children, who were sleeping at the time of the unprovoked attack.
A third defendant, Jose “Lil’ Moe’’ Saucedo, 24, is expected to plead guilty before U.S. District Judge Christina A. Snyder on May 31. The defendants face potential sentences of at least 30 years in federal prison.
Prosecutors said the East Los Angeles gang members violated the civil rights of the families, specifically the constitutional right to live in a home free from “injury, intimidation and interference based on race.’’
Three other members of the Big Hazard gang who were charged in the case — Francisco “Bones’’ Farias, 27, Joel Matthew “Gallo’’ Monarrez, 23, and Jose “Fresco’’ Zamora, 28 — previously pleaded guilty to federal hate crimes and related offenses, and are awaiting sentencing in Los Angeles federal court.
The final two defendants — Carlos “Rider’’ Hernandez, 33, and Josue “Malo’’ Garibay, 24, are facing trial on July 31.
According to an indictment unsealed in the summer of 2016, Hernandez ordered the other defendants to meet at a location in Hazard gang territory on May 11, 2014 — Mother’s Day — to prepare for the night’s attack. At the meeting, Hernandez allegedly distributed materials to be used during the firebombing, including disguises, gloves and other materials. Hernandez explained that the order for the racially motivated attack had come from the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang that controls the majority of Hispanic gangs in Southern California, prosecutors allege.
The indictment also alleges that Hernandez told the other defendants to break the victims’ windows, allowing the Molotov cocktails to make a clean entry, ignite the firebombs and throw them into the victims’ units in order to maximize damage. One of the victims, a mother sleeping on her couch with her infant child in her arms, narrowly missed being struck by one of the weapons.