11 charged with racketeering after murders, drugs and firearms trafficking linked to gang

Eleven South Bay men have been accused of racketeering conspiracy involving a series of murders, shootings, and drug and gun distribution linked to the Nortenos street gang, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.   

An indictment unsealed Thursday alleges the men took part in a series of crimes to "promote the aims" of the Salinas Acosta Plaza Nortenos, affiliated with the prison gang Nuestra Familia, prosecutors said.   

"The allegations in the indictment, if proven, describe a group that has a wanton disregard for life and an extreme penchant for violence," U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey said in a press release. "The dozens of crimes outlined in the complaint describe a vicious gang that, for example, uses beatings as a hazing for membership and death as a penalty for trying to leave the group."   

The men are accused of different crimes to financially benefit the gang and prove their loyalty through acts of violence, including eight murders during the last five years, numerous attempted murders, and the firebombing of an apartment.   

But all are solely charged with one count of racketeering, which is used to prosecute organized crime and allows prosecutors to charge offenses as related.   

A conviction on the charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. Nine of the defendants have pleaded not guilty, while the other two are yet to be arraigned, according to court records. 

A pretrial hearing for the nine is scheduled for June 11.   

The 11 defendants, whose ages range from 19 to 38 years old, are being charged with crimes that are alleged to be connected because they were committed to benefit an ongoing criminal enterprise under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.   

The murder allegations include one that occurred in July 2014 and seven more that occurred between December 2019 and December 2023.   

"The murder victims include people who defendants perceived were associated with rival gangs, transient men, and men perceived to have dropped out of the SAP Nortenos," prosecutors said.   

Some of the defendants were minors when their alleged crimes occurred.   

Prosecutors said the investigation was conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Salinas Police Department.