A close associate of a Whittier street gang was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for committing a series of drug-related and violent acts, including the attempted murder of a local police officer during a narcotics transaction.
Frankie Vasquez, 40, of Carson, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering, conspiring to distribute methamphetamine, and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and drug trafficking.
Vasquez was sentenced on Oct. 28 by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The charges against Vasquez were contained in an indictment that charged him and 50 other members and associates of the gang, which operates primarily in Santa Fe Springs and Whittier under the control of a member of the Mexican Mafia.
According to the racketeering indictment, which was unsealed in June 2016 and updated in October 2017 to add additional charges, an incarcerated member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang exerted control over various local gangs and received compensation in the form of “rent” or “taxes” generated by drug trafficking and other offenses committed in gang territory.
When law enforcement authorities arrested Vasquez in May 2018, they found in his possession a copy of the indictment, with certain sections highlighted, according to federal prosecutors.
In his plea agreement, Vasquez admitted being associated with the Whittier gang, which attempted to control its claimed territory by conspiring and actually committing “acts of violence, including assaults, murders, extortion, and acts of intimidation; engaging in narcotics trafficking, extortion, and robberies; and taxing narcotics sales and other profitable illegal activity occurring within the territory.”
In addition to participating in the organization’s drug-trafficking business, Vasquez admitted he attempted to murder the undercover Whittier police officer, who Vasquez thought was trying to rob him during a drug deal. In fact, the undercover detective was conducting surveillance as part of a narcotics investigation.
Most of the defendants named in the federal RICO indictment have been convicted, either by guilty plea or trial. The lead defendant in the case, Jose Loza, was found guilty in August on a host of charges, including murder. Loza is facing a life prison term when he is sentenced on Feb. 24 in downtown Los Angeles.
The investigation into the gang was called Operation Frog Legs and resulted in the seizure of narcotics and 51 firearms, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.