Mexican Mafia Member Sentenced in Major Racketeering Conspiracy Case
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 25, 2013|
SAN DIEGO—Rudy Espudo, the lead defendant in a major RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations) and drug trafficking case involving the violent and powerful Mexican Mafia prison gang, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Irma E. Gonzalez to 35 years in prison for his role in the conspiracy, which involved drug distribution and crimes of violence.
The sentence reflected Espudo’s role as a validated member of the Mexican Mafia who oversaw the activities of gang members throughout much of northern San Diego County. Espudo engaged in drug trafficking and extortion, as well as profiting from the criminal activity of those gang members who worked under his so-called protection. Espudo pledged to “protect” these criminals as long as they paid their “taxes” to the Mexican Mafia. Such taxes are essentially payments made by gang members and drug dealers to a Mexican Mafia member for the right to conduct their illegal activity free from interference from the Mexican Mafia. In Espudo’s case, those communities included areas of Escondido, Fallbrook and San Marcos.
According to prosecutors, Espudo’s power over the gangs subservient to the Mexican Mafia was pervasive and dramatic. To utter his name invoked celebrity status—but to get on his bad side was to run the risk of ending up beaten and bloodied from a “green light”—an assault order from a Mexican Mafia member on a person or a gang. Under a “green light” every Sureno gang member (which includes most Hispanic gangs in Southern California) must violently attack the person or gang that has been “green lighted.” If they fail to do so, they risk being “green lighted” themselves.
Espudo was convicted of Count One of the August 2, 2012 Indictment—RICO Conspiracy, Count 2—Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine and Cocaine and Count 12—Brandishing of a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime of Violence.
Espudo’s case was part of “Operation Notorious County,” which resulted in eight indictments in January 2012, charging 51 individuals with participating in a federal racketeering influenced and corrupt organization (RICO) conspiracy and other offenses. All 51 indicted defendants were found guilty at trial or pleaded guilty to offenses including firearms (possession, brandishing, and discharge), extortion, robbery, money laundering, and drug trafficking.
Seven defendants who were indicted with Espudo and who were members of the Diablos and West Side gangs, based in Escondido, as well as the Varrio Fallbrook Locos gang (Fallbrook) went to trial in August 2013. All seven of those defendants were convicted at the conclusion of the trial on October 2, 2013 of the RICO conspiracy and various other charges. All but two have been sentenced.
Case Number: 12CR0236-IEG
- Rudy Espudo, Age: 41, Escondido, California
Case Number: 12CR0236-IEG
- PABLO FRANCO, aka Casper, aka Dwarf, Age: 31, Fallbrook, CA
- JESUS BARRAGAN, aka Chito, Age: 37, Escondido, CA
- FRANCISCO GUTIERREZ, aka Bullet, aka Ammo, Age: 29, Fallbrook, CA
- JULIO SOLORZANO aka Mowgli, Age: 20, Escondido, CA
- HECTOR FERNANDEZ aka Evil, Age: 23, Escondido, CA
- JOSE CORNEJO aka Rabbit, Age 21: Escondido, CA
- HECTOR GARCIA, Studders, aka Muffin, Age: 20, Escondido, CA
The case was the product of an 18-month investigation by the North County Regional Gang Task Force (NCRGTF), including agents and officers from the San Diego County Sheriff's Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and the Escondido, Carlsbad, and Oceanside Police Departments. The case also involved coordinated support from the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.