Leader of Oxnard Street Gang and Mexican Mafia Associate Found Guilty of Federal Drug and Gun Trafficking Charges
LOS ANGELES—Capping the second phase of Operation “Supernova”—which was a multiagency investigation into Ventura County’s largest street gang—the leader of the Oxnard-based Colonia Chiques street gang has been found guilty of a host of criminal charges, including operating a continuing criminal enterprise.
In a verdict that was issued by a federal jury after 9:00 on Friday night, Luis Manuel Tapia, the leader of the Colonia Chiques and a validated associate of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, was found guilty of each of the 26 federal charges filed against him.
As a result of the convictions, Tapia, 37, of Ojai, faces four mandatory life sentences—plus an additional, consecutive 55 years—when he is sentenced by United States District Judge Otis D. Wright II on December 15.
The evidence presented during a two-week trial in federal court in Los Angeles showed that Tapia was deeply involved in the business of running the Colonia Chiques and was personally involved in the sale of firearms and narcotics. During a series of secretly recorded meetings with Tapia, he described himself as the “CEO” of his enterprise, comparing it to Walmart because he supplied a wide array of contraband and always guaranteed his product’s quality. Indeed, one $200,000 drug transaction in October 2011 involved approximately 10 pounds of nearly pure methamphetamine.
During the investigation, authorities conducted an undercover operation in Las Vegas in which an undercover FBI agent posed as a senior member of the Italian mob and negotiated to have Tapia supply the Las Vegas syndicate of the Italian mob with up to 20 pounds of highly pure methamphetamine every month.
The jury also heard Tapia, in a video recording, bragging that his heroin was so strong that it had “killed six people”—and that this was a “good advertisement” for his drug operation. Tapia also explained how his high-quality methamphetamine—which lab results confirmed was often 100 percent pure—was obtained from Mexican drug cartels. In another video recording, Tapia was heard directing a large assembly of younger Colonia Chiques gang members to monopolize their drug selling territory, to seek out and violently expel or attack informants, and to heed the directives of the Mexican Mafia.
At another stage of the investigation, authorities seized 2.5 pounds of heroin, over 9 ounces of cocaine, 9.6 ounces of methamphetamine, cash and two loaded firearms inside a hidden trap in a car owned by Tapia.
Tapia was specifically found guilty of leading a continuing criminal enterprise that distributed at least 1,000 grams of methamphetamine, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to engage in the business of dealing in firearms without a license, 10 substantive counts of drug distribution (involving heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine), three counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, seven counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and the illegal transfer of a fully-automatic machinegun. Counting the machinegun, investigators seized 19 firearms from Tapia, including an AR-15 assault rifle, a custom built AK-47 with a bayonet, and a pistol grip sawed-off shotgun.
Four of Tapia’s co-defendants—Diana Zamora, Edgar Aguilar, Roger Armendariz and Jaime Cardenas—have pleaded guilty to conspiring traffic narcotics and/or firearms and have received sentences of up to 10 years in federal prison. An unknown male, known only as “Pancho,” who allegedly supplied narcotics to Tapia, is a fugitive believed to be in Mexico.
In the first part of Operation Supernova (see: http://www.justice.gov/usao) federal prosecutors convicted 11 defendants who have received sentences of up to 25 years in prison.
The Supernova investigation was conducted by the Ventura County Federal Violent Crimes Task Force, which is comprised of agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and officers with the Oxnard Police Department.