Posted by Edmond Geary | Posted in Drug trafficking, Kidnapping, Murder, Racketeering | Posted on 19-07-2010
Federal authorities have documented many links between most of the major U.S. prison gangs and Mexican drug trafficking organizations. The most recent National Drug Threat Assessment from the Justice Department reported prison gangs were operating in all 50 U.S. states are increasing their influence over drug trafficking along the U.S.-Mexican b order.
Federal prosecutors in San Diego charged 36 defendants of racketeering for their activities between the Arellano Felix drug trafficking network and California’s Mexican Mafia prison gang, the gang members allegedly working in drug trafficking, kidnapping, and murder attempts for the Mexican cartel.
Baldemar Rivera for years ran a Texas prison gang named Raza Unida while he was in isolation. Reportedly, this is common for gang members for the organization to be run from someone in solitary confinement. Rivera says he used sign language to discuss gang business with one of his minions who visited him. Rivera communicated with gang members in other Texas prisons through his captains in prison, who wrote to the soldiers, also in prison. Within 3 or 4 days, the word had been passed, the word was out. Rivera, now 50, and now serving a 60-year sentence for murder, says he left the gang life 10 years ago after completing the state’s gang-renouncement program.
Rivera was running Raza Unida in the 1990s, when prisoners used mail to communicate with each other and the outside world. Now they use cell phones. Texas prisons seized 1200 cell phones from prisoners last year. And Texas prisons do not allow prisoners to mail letters to other inmates, so they mail to third parties, who then pass on their letters to the prisoner intended.
Prisoners also hold conference calls provided by friends on the outside. Mail censors watch their mail, so some prisoners communicate in Nahuatl, language of the Aztecs. It is an ancient language, but it’s still spoken by about a million and a half people in Mexico. The gang members learn Nahuatl from books, and some of them adopt Aztec names. They claim they are honoring their heritage, but they are just concealing their communications.
The gangs sometimes get their hooks into prison employees or even court employees. One woman who worked in the federal defender’s office in El Paso was convicted of acting as liaison between gang members behind the walls and their confederates outside.
Gang members have testified in at least two federal cases about how money from the gang’s outside businesses of extortion, drug sales, and other illegal undertakings, ultimately found its way into the gang members’ commissary accounts in prison.
An FBI agent testified last year in a prosecution against Texas’ Mexican Mafia prison gang that the gang collected at least $8,000 a week, sometimes $40,000 a week, in San Antonio alone. The proceeds were sent to gang members in prison, where they spent the money on food, personal items, or they could send money to their family members on the outside. Drugs were available to gang members and visitations from girls.
Contraband is smuggled in by guards, lawyers, and visitors. Revenue from drug sales on the street pays for it. A cell phone cost $2,000. Contraband is dropped off at pre-arranged locations accessible to prisoners on work detail. Sixty phones were discovered on one occasion in an air compressor delivered to a prison workshop.
When gang members are released from prison, they are expected to report to gang leaders on the outside, attend gang meetings and make their contribution to making money for the gang. That usually means selling drugs or enforcing on the street dealers.
The number of active gang members nationally is estimated at about 1 million. Prison gangs like the Mexican Mafia, the Texas Syndicate, Hermandad de Pistoleros Latinos (the Brotherhood of Latino Gunmen), Raza Unida, and Mexikanemi comprise only about 45,000 members. However, they control most of the local street gangs as well, especially in southern California and south Texas.