Jury Convicts Gang Member in South Francisco Triple Homicides
SAN FRANCISCO—Victor Flores, Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez, and Armando Acosta were convicted of racketeering conspiracy by a federal jury yesterday, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Special Agent in Charge Tatum King, and FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.
In addition, the jury also convicted Flores of three counts of racketeering murder and four counts of racketeering attempted murder for his involvement in a Dec. 22, 2010, shooting in South San Francisco, Calif., as well as the attempted murder of three federal agents whom he shot and seriously wounded when the agents sought to arrest him on May 3, 2012. Acosta was also convicted of being an accessory-after-the-fact to murder, as well as various obstruction offenses. A fourth defendant, Mario Bergren, was acquitted of the charges against him.
The guilty verdict followed a three-month jury trial before the Honorable Susan Illston, United States District Court Judge, in San Francisco. The jury found that Flores, 23, of Petaluma, Campos-Gonzalez, 24, of San Mateo, and Acosta, 29, of South San Francisco, conspired to conduct the affairs of a racketeering enterprise, the 500 Block/C Street Gang. The 500 Block/C Street Gang was a Norteño gang based in South San Francisco that engaged in drug dealing, robbery, obstruction of justice, and crimes of violence, including one of the most violent single crimes in South San Francisco history.
According to the evidence presented at trial, during the evening of Dec. 22, 2010, Flores, along with fellow 500 Block/C Street gang member Joseph Ortiz shot at seven victims, whom they perceived to be rival gang members as the victims walked down Eighth Lane in South San Francisco. Gonzalo Avalos, Omar Cortez, and Hector Flores were killed while three of the others were wounded. Acosta was also convicted of being an accessory-after-the-fact to racketeering murder for his role in helping to cover up the murders.
In addition, when members of the Los Angeles Special Response Team of Homeland Security Investigations went to execute an arrest warrant for Flores on May 3, 2012, in Petaluma, Calif., Flores opened fired on the federal agents with an AK-47-style assault weapon. He fired twenty rounds of large-caliber ammunition at the agents, emptying two full magazines of ammunition, before he eventually surrendered to law enforcement. The jury convicted Flores for the attempted murder of the three federal agents whom he wounded.
“These convictions are the result of the tireless effort of law enforcement agents from multiple agencies working together to keep the community safe. For the victims and their families, there is nothing we can do to erase their pain and sorrow. We hope, however, that these convictions demonstrate that justice has been served and that the victims and their families can now begin to heal,” U.S. Attorney Haag said. “The facts of this case highlight the extraordinary bravery with which the men and women of law enforcement perform their duties.”
“These verdicts represent another important victory in the ongoing effort to rid our communities of violent street gangs along with the scourge of fear and crime they foster,” said Tatum King, acting special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. “As we said when these defendants were arrested, ‘justice is patient and justice is resolute.’ Yesterday, it was rewarded. In that vein, HSI will continue to work closely with the South San Francisco and Daly City police departments and other local and federal law enforcement agencies to infiltrate and dismantle these dangerous criminal enterprises and hold their members accountable for their actions.”
“The conviction of Victor Flores for his attempted murder of three Department of Homeland Security agents represents a significant victory for the rule of law and for the agents and officers who put their lives on the line every day to enforce those laws,” said David J. Johnson, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the San Francisco Field Office. “The FBI is proud of its role in this highly successful case and will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice anyone who attempts to harm law enforcement agents or officers engaged in the pursuit of justice.”
“South San Francisco is a safe place to live and work and yesterday’s conviction sends a strong message to those who continue to promote the gang lifestyle, that we are not going to tolerate to be shaken by senseless and blatant acts of gang violence,” South San Francisco Police Chief Jeff Azzopardi said. “We will continue our partnership with the Daly City Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations(HSI), the FBI, and the United States Attorney’s Office to keep South San Francisco as one of the safest places in the Bay Area.”
Flores, Campos-Gonzalez, and Acosta are currently being held in custody and are scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 16, 2015, before Judge Illston. Flores faces a maximum penalty of six life terms plus 103 years’ imprisonment, and a mandatory minimum sentence of three life terms plus 35 years’ imprisonment. Campos-Gonzalez faces up to twenty years’ imprisonment for his conviction for racketeering conspiracy, while Acosta faces up to sixty years’ imprisonment for his conviction for racketeering conspiracy, being an accessory-after-the-fact to murder, and obstruction of justice. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
The jury’s verdict concludes an investigation initiated by the South San Francisco Police Department, the Daly City Police Department, HSI, and by the FBI. In all, more than 19 defendants were charged, with more than 15 defendants pleading guilty, including Joseph Ortiz, who is presently serving a sentence of five life terms plus sixty years’ imprisonment for his involvement in the Dec. 22, 2010, shooting.
Acadia L. Senese, Stephen Meyer, and Benjamin Tolkoff are the Assistant United States Attorneys who prosecuted this case, with the assistance of Kevin Costello and Daniel Charlier-Smith.