The first defendant in the Mongols racketeering case was sentenced this week and that is both good news and bad news for the Mongols.
Juan Manuel “Listo” Nieves pled guilty to belonging to a murdering, drug dealing, criminal conspiracy named the Mongols Motorcycle Club and he was sentenced to 27 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release. Nieves has already been locked up for more than eight months and Federal prisoners usually serve between one third and one half of their sentence before being paroled. So, it is possible that he could be home for Christmas.
Nieves is the most senior member of the Mongols known to have entered a plea. He was Sergeant at Arms for the Mother Chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle Club and his sentencing puts a new pair of spectacles on this case.
Nieves Stepped Up
What just happened is that Nieves stepped up. Nieves and his attorney, Mark S. Windsor, called the government’s bluff. Windsor seems to have understood months ago that the Mongols Motorcycle Club as an institution was toast but that the accused Mongols as individual defendants had a very good chance of surviving this case and getting back to their lives.
The bad news for the Mongols, more clearly now than ever, is that the government owns the Mongols name, patch and any other tangible or intangible assets the club might still possess. Last week, a California corporation named the Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club tried to stop this particular freight train by throwing eggs at it. The eggs missed.
And, just yesterday another defendant, Andres “Rascal” Rodriguez, pled guilty to racketeering and possession of a small amount of methamphetamine. So far a total of ten named defendants have called the government’s bluff and pled guilty to belonging to the Mongols criminal conspiracy.
How Strong Is The Government Case
The good news, however, is that it is starting to look like the government’s case against the remaining defendants is a big, bad bluff.
The government prosecution of the Mongols is, really, the fruit of two investigations. The first of these investigations was Operation Black Rain.
After that investigation concluded last October the government hit the defendants with more than 4,000 items of evidence: Including “recordings of numerous Mongols meetings;” “internal documents generated and maintained by the Mongols;” “telephone conversations intercepted pursuant to Title III wire taps;” “call sheets summarizing the conversations captured in additional intercepted telephone conversations;” and, more than “600 reports of investigation (ROI) generated by ATF agents.”
It sounds like an impressive mountain of evidence. Probably, it is more like a confusing mountain of innuendo, allegation and entrapment.
Is The Government Breaking The Law
The second investigation has been going on since the arrests and it began to pick up steam last February when the government first leaked stories to eager news sources that the Mongols were falling all over each other to cooperate. What has really been going on is that the prosecution has been threatening defendants with new, secret evidence supplied by their club, or former club, brothers.
What evidence? Well the government cannot say because to do so would put the sources of that evidence at risk. All the government will reveal is that at least 13 defendants have made secret deals.
Or, viewed more cynically, the government is blatantly, and perhaps criminally, frustrating discovery of alleged new evidence in order to try to spread as much paranoia and panic among the defendants as possible. Nieves’ attorney Windsor caught on to this early. If the government really does have a case against these men, and it already has a mountain of evidence against them, why does it need to create new evidence?
Your Tax Dollars At Work
Is it possible? Except for the big issue of the club name and patch, is this government case really as weak as every other ATF case has been against every other motorcycle club?
The ATF spent $700,000 dollars on the first six months of Operation Ivan eleven years ago, just to make Billy Queen a hang-around with the Mongols. This case, Operation Black Rain, paid eight undercover ATF Agents and six cooperating witnesses and it lasted for 40 months! How much did this all cost? Do the math.
During Operation Ivan, Queen very famously did not do a line of crank in a hotel room in Laughlin. How many lines of crank did these undercover agents not do?
Where is the truth in this case? If defendants are cooperating who are they? Did Doc Cavazos flip? How would you know if he did?
Did Doc Cavazos Flip
In most racketeering cases, there are three flashing lights that signal when a defendant is about to flip: The defendant changes lawyers; the defendant is physically moved or segregated away from other defendants; and, or, the defendant and his new lawyer meet privately with the judge. In federal cases, it may look like the prosecutor is making the deals but only a federal judge is actually allowed to shake hands.
The lights in this case flash slowly and dimly. This is what can be said that is provably true about Ruben Cavazos, Sr., his son Ruben, Jr. and his brother Al Cavazos.
All three men were remanded to the custody of United States Marshalls on October 21st, 2008. The three were ordered permanently detained six days later and since then they have all assumed a low profile.
For a period of many months before he was voted out of the club last August, Doc Cavazos seemed unable to keep quiet about anything with anybody. His memoir, his television appearance and his several conversations with the Los Angeles Times aside, this was a guy who, “on March 11, 2008, by telephone,” was tape recorded telling a reporter “that he could provide specific details about a Mongols murder committed at a tattoo shop and involving the Mexican Mafia, including information about the planning and preparation for the murder.”
Well, now it seems, Doc has run out of things to say. And, he does not appear to be in the Federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles with most of the other Mongols prisoners.
The New, Silent Doc
At least some Mongols think Cavazos is being detained in “San Bernardino” but that appears doubtful. He is in the custody of the Marshall’s Service and it seems unlikely that they would keep a notorious prisoner in a place like the West Valley Detention Center because it is basically a county jail. It is more likely that Cavazos is in the more secure Federal Institution on Terminal Island in Los Angeles Harbor; or the Metropolitan Correction Center in San Diego; or at the Federal Correctional Complex in Victorville, about 30 miles northeast of San Bernardino; or even at the Fort Irwin Military Reservation and Desert Warfare Training Center which is about 40 miles north of Victorville.
Actually, Cavazos could be almost anywhere else in the world because he has not made a court appearance since at least October 24th when a magistrate ordered him detained. There does not appear to be any actual paper record that Cavazos has been in a court room since October 21st.
Cavazos has never changed lawyers. He has been represented from the beginning by a Supervising Attorney in the Office of the Federal Public Defender named Angel Navarro. Beginning on December 15th, and about once a month since then, Navarro has filed a court stipulated document attesting that he remains Doc Cavazos’ attorney of record and that he has visited with his client. There is also no unsealed record to indicate that Cavazos has ever met with Judge Cooper.
Al And Lil’ Rubes
The paper trail for Al Cavazos is also impossibly faint. He did however make an “under seal filing” on June 4th.
The most visible Cavazos in the official record has been Lil’ Rubes. Ruben Cavazos, Jr. is officially “Defendant Number Two” in this case. On February 27th, about the time the U.S. Attorney began the mass sealing of documents in this case, the youngest Cavazos and his attorney met with Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, “Out of the presence of (the) government prosecutor.” A court reporter named D. Hilland was also present.
Then about ten days ago Cavazos, Jr. subpoenaed certain, unnamed items from the Monterey Park (California) Police Department. Whatever he wanted to see will be returned at the “conclusion of the trial, contested proceeding, or upon any pretrial disposition of the case.”
Finally, nine days ago, Ruben Cavazos, Jr. waived his right to be present at any future court proceedings related to the case.