A coalition of federal and local authorities this morning announced federal charges against 10 members and associates of a San Gabriel Valley gang who are named in a series of federal grand jury indictments that allege a wide range of criminal conduct. The crimes alleged include the fatal shooting of a woman who was gunned down when a gang member attempted to kill a person who was providing information to law enforcement.
Wednesday’s takedown targeted the Quiet Village (QV) street gang and is the result of an investigation that started soon after June 14, 2022, when a member of that gang murdered two El Monte police officers – Sergeant Michael Paredes and Officer Joseph Santana.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s San Gabriel Valley Safe Streets Task Force and involved agents and officers assigned to the Task Force from the FBI, the El Monte Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Pomona Police Department and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Special Service Unit. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives participated in the investigation.
“A highly violent gang responsible for the murders of two brave police officers and others has now felt the weight of a collective law enforcement response. The gang’s days of terrorizing the community stop with today’s federal arrests,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada. “The indictments we announce today should assure the community that we are here to protect you, and we will use our full resources to fight violent crime and thereby ensure that everyone in Southern California, no matter where they live, has a safe place to live and raise their families.”
“The San Gabriel Valley Safe Streets Task Force works with multiple law enforcement departments throughout the valley to address violent crime, including the alleged crimes by the gang members and associates being charged in Operation Silent Cadence,” said Donald Alway, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “We expect this operation to deal a death blow to these criminal enterprises and their ability to maintain power in the neighborhoods they controlled, and to deliver a measure of justice to the families of the victims mercilessly targeted in the various crimes alleged.”
“Today, the El Monte Police Department, the FBI and all of our partner agencies told every American we will never stop in the pursuit of justice when the most heinous of crimes are committed that harm our communities,” said El Monte Police Chief Jake Fisher.
A total of 10 defendants are charged across four grand jury indictments and a criminal complaint. On Wednesday, two defendants were arrested; four were already in custody; and authorities are continuing to search for four fugitives. (Additional defendants were taken into custody today on local charges.)
The main indictment alleges violations of two federal racketeering statutes – a conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and violent crimes in aid of racketeering – as well as firearms and narcotics offense. The remaining three indictments allege narcotics trafficking and firearms charges.
The RICO count – which charges three defendants – outlines the history of QV; its close alliance with another street gang, Whittier Varrio Locos (WVL); and its association with the Mexican Mafia prison gang. The indictment alleges three main areas of criminal conduct: an attempted murder of a rival gang member, the targeting of an informant that resulted in the death of a bystander, and the gang’s operation of a “casita” that offered illegal gambling and narcotics.
According to the 46-page RICO indictment:
The lead defendant in the case – Chase Carrillo, aka “Sicko,” 34, a shot caller in QV – became involved in a verbal altercation with a rival gang member in El Monte on January 13, 2022. That altercation ended with Carrillo and WVL shot caller Ronny Rojas shooting the rival gangster, who was struck 8 to 10 times and severely wounded. A man identified in the indictment as J.P. was ordered to drive the getaway vehicle.
Authorities investigated the incident and local prosecutors filed charges against Carrillo and Ronny Rojas. In early March 2022, Rojas obtained a police report about the incident that named J.P. as a person who provided authorities information about the shooting. Rojas asked WVL member Maria Garcia, who was present at the shooting, to distribute the report. Rojas later said it should go “to all the homies,” which the indictment alleges was a message to fellow gang members that “J.P. should be murdered for cooperating with law enforcement.”
On March 5, 2022, only two days after the police report began circulating among gang members, Carrillo and Garcia – who were driving a car rented with a credit card Garcia had stolen – encountered J.P. in the City of Commerce. Carrillo got out of the rental car and fired at least two rounds into the vehicle J.P. was riding in with the intent to kill him. J.P. was not hit, but the driver of the vehicle – a woman identified in court documents as M.F. – was fatally wounded.
Soon after this killing, Garcia attempted to sell the 9mm ghost gun Carrillo used to kill M.F. One week after the slaying, Garcia told another gang associate, “yeah she was driving his car” and later said, “sometimes you gotta take matters into your own hands, you know?”
QV members and associates also operated casita – an illegal gambling business – behind a smoke shop in Whittier. After the murder of the El Monte Police officers, gang members “placed posters, stickers, and graffiti at QV’s illegal gambling business and elsewhere to celebrate the actions of [the murderer] and in order to advance their gang’s reputation for violence and intimidate others.”
In addition to illegal gambling, the casita was used to distribute methamphetamine. The indictment specifically alleges that QV member Richard Guzman, 40, engaged in five transactions involving methamphetamine in July and August of 2022. The complaint alleges that Vincent Gutierrez also sold methamphetamine at the casita. Additionally, the indictment alleges that a Kansas-based gang member, 43-year-old Raphael Solorzano, drove 7 pounds of methamphetamine from Kansas to Southern California with the intent to sell the narcotics.
One of the three narcotics-trafficking indictments alleges that Ronny Rojas, while he was incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Jail in relation to the attempted murder offense, conspired with a relative to distribute suboxone, an opioid marketed as a treatment for opioid addiction, but which is sometimes abused.
An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The defendants taken into custody today are expected to be arraigned this afternoon in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
Each defendant faces a substantial prison sentence if they were to be convicted. For example, Carrillo, who is charged in the RICO count, a violent crime in aid of racketeering and using a firearm in a violent crime resulting in the death of M.F. would face a sentence of life without parole or a potential death sentence if he were convicted.
The FBI’s San Gabriel Valley Safe Streets Task Force, which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration, conducted this investigation. The Task Force received substantial assistance from the Whitter Police Department, the Bell Gardens Police Department, the Arcadia Police Department, the West Covina Police Department, the Covina Police Department, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremiah Levine of the Violent and Organized Crime Section is prosecuting this case.