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During the last several years there have been a large volume of raids on Mexican Mafia marijuana gardens throughout our country. Information is now available on who these Mafia gang families are. In Northern California “Norteńo” gangs are invading many cities and rural communities. One of their identifying pieces of clothing is a red bandana or a San Francisco 49ers bomber jacket while their counterparts; the Soreńo’s from the south wear a blue bandana.
The Norteno’s are comprised of any Hispanic gang member north of Fresno. Lau and Pulido along with Nuestra members being most prevalent in Siskiyou, Shasta, Tehama and other northern counties. According to documents these organized families are believed responsible for the murders of upwards of 300 of their own Mexican brothers.
Northern California has been and will continue to be one of the most desirable areas for these cartels/gangs to produce their marijuana crops as a result of the hot weather and access to the I-5 corridor.
Marijuana Eradication Teams (MET) are comprised of both local and federal agents. At the conclusion of this last summers growing season, MET agents from the Siskiyou County Sheriff Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management made arrests in Merced, California. Unprocessed marijuana from Northern California gardens were sent to an isolated barn just off of I-5 in Merced where one raid resulted in the arrests of 64 Mexican Nationals connected to the Pulido Family, the seizure of 20 weapons including automatics, two pounds of meth and over 4,300 pounds of marijuana.
Ceres, California is just 50 miles north of Merced and on January 12, 2005 that town became the scene of the shooting of two Ceres Police Officers. During a gun battle with police Andres Raya allegedly injured Officer Sam Ryno and killed Sgt. Howard Stevenson. Raya a member of the “Norteńo’s” is also a 19-year-old Marine that had recently returned from Iraq. Another former Marine and a member of the Nuestra Family is Gerald “Pistol” Rubalcaba is currently in Pelican Bay State Prison following the “hit” on another inmate while he was at Susanville’s California Correctional Center, which authorities say he was held responsible for.
In Siskiyou County there have been threats against local residents of the county. According to Sheriff Rick Riggins, a Hispanic marijuana grower held a man and his son at gunpoint. The grower took down their driver’s license information and they were told there would be consequences if they said anything.
Two years ago Sheriff Riggins said, “We lost $1.5 million from our budget and this year we lost over $900,000 last year.” In 2005 Riggings faces another problem – the increased in cost for helicopter flying time. The company that supplies the helicopter for Siskiyou County is increasing costs by $200 per hour and he also facing additional budget cuts.
Sheriff Riggins has been effective with his MET operations even with the budget cuts. His community awareness program is allowing more citizens to become involved. “We have had more citizen reports this last year than any other time,” Riggins told the Pioneer Press. People can report illegal activity without becoming involved. “We don’t even need their name, all they have to do is give us a direction and we will investigate,” said the Sheriff. Last year we investigated the Lau and Pulido families. Next year the sheriff has plans to investigate other arms of the Norteńo families.
Riggins used an example from this last year, were there was a tip to sheriff officials, which resulted in a raid only 2 miles from the Etna City limits where over 3,000 plants were seized. This resulted in a police chase of an armed Mexican national who eventually eluded capture.
Redding Police Department, Sergeant John Hawkins of the Anti Gang Enforcement unit points out that in Redding, “There is an increase in Hispanic Gang involvement and there is also an increase in drug involvement in this area.” Hawkins is hopeful that the existing nation wide problem in urban communities is something we not see in Northern California. Commander Dan Callahan of the Shasta County Narcotics Task Force emphasized, “There is no end of crystal meth in the area.”
In Tehama County the drug problem with youth has caused devastation to many families. With Meth being the drug of choice by county youth, one only has to look at the problems that meth has created with the minors that are now incarcerated in the Tehama County Juvenile Justice Center.
Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker has the same financial problems that all other sheriffs are facing. His department does what they can, but in order to be totally effective all counties need more resources and in addition community involvement has become most important.
In Tehama County there are know members of the Norteńo’s and the number of youth involved with this known criminal enterprise is increasing. One of those claiming to be Norteńo is Gabriel Farias (18). In the past, Farias has been under investigation for possession of automatic weapons. There were no formal charges filed. He is currently being held in the Tehama County Jail under $175,000 bail. He is being investigated for conspiracy to commit a crime, robbery, kidnapping, firearms violations and making criminal threats.
In Del Norte County Detective Sergeant Bill Steven explained that Del Norte County is financial strapped and as a result his drug enforcement team is at a bare minimum with both resources and manpower. Stevens did acknowledge the meth problem in his county and is hopeful that when the California budget crisis is over there will be help forthcoming. He was positive that in the future there would be changes made to help eradicate many of these illegal organizations.
A hopeful side of drug investigations comes from the Yurok Tribal Police Chief of Public Safety, Mike Ross. Ross has 40 years in law enforcement including his two terms as Sheriff in Del Norte County. He was with the Sonoma County Sheriff Department, holds a masters degree in Law Enforcement and consults to other agencies. Ross verified that there has been a drug problem in the entire area for years and that, “Meth has been the white drug of choice during that time.”
“We are aware that in the past and currently there is a drug problem up river [Klamath] but our information is non-specific. The locals want it stopped but they don’t want involvement,” said Ross. He went on to explain that the Tribe has adopted a no-tolerance drug policy and, “The Tribe is looking at a grant that will target drug manufacturing along the river, on tribal grounds and near the Tribes boundaries.” With the grant in place, one of Ross’s goals is to assign three marine deputies to work the 44 miles of the Klamath River between the Towns of Klamath and Weitchpec, California. The goal is to obtain intelligence information and to ultimately curtail the flow of drugs from that area.
Just across the border between California and Oregon is the town of Klamath, Oregon where the problem is a little different. The concern there is not only local drug producers but also the flow of drugs from California. As Officer James Williams with the Interagency Narcotics Team stated, “We have a lot of Hispanic gangs bringing narcotics in from California.”
The trial of money from these Mexican gangs through drug sales, prostitution, extortion and other gang related activities has now led to Pelican Bay State Prison where some of the money is being laundered. Pelican Bay authorities have acknowledged that inmates have accepted checks and money orders from Mexican drug families and distributed the funds to their own family members. According to a November 22, 2004 Associated Press story, “One gang member told authorities he spent upwards of $60,000 one year on his children’s college fund.”
All law enforcement agents interviewed agree, these dealers know no boundaries; there are no county lines or state lines. Whatever it takes to sell drugs and make money is acceptable. In California the problem has become a “major epidemic” and needs to be stopped.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:15 AM Pacific
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