Here is a summary of the three principal federal cases involving members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club as of today. The three cases are United States versus Cavazos and others in Los Angeles; US versus Maestas and others in Denver; and US versus Christopher Ablett in Oakland.
Cavazos Count One
Seventy-nine members and associates of the club were indicted a year ago. Jorge Cottini died in custody. Peter Soto has not yet been arraigned. Seventy-seven other defendants have been arraigned.
Forty four defendants have agreed to plea and sentencing agreements with the prosecutors. All but one of these defendants has pled guilty to Count One of the Indictment.
Count One alleges, in part, that, “Beginning on a date unknown, and continuing to on or about October 9, 2008” the defendants “being persons employed by and associated with the Mongols criminal enterprise, which enterprise engaged in and the activities of which affected interstate and foreign commerce, unlawfully and knowingly combined, conspired, confederated, and agreed together and with each other to violate Title 18, United States Code, Section 1962, that is, to conduct and participate, directly and indirectly, in the conduct of the affairs of the enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, as that term is defined in Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961(1) and 1961(5), consisting of multiple acts involving murder…distribution of controlled substances, including methamphetamine and cocaine…and multiple acts indictable under Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1956 and 1957 (money laundering). It was a further part of the conspiracy that each defendant agreed that a conspirator would commit at least two acts of racketeering in the conduct of the affairs of the enterprise.”
The first conspirator to “confess” was former club President Ruben “Doc” Cavazos.
The Remaining Defendants
According to an informed attorney close to the case, four more defendants are “optimistic” about negotiating plea and sentencing agreements with prosecutors. Those defendants are Horacio Ponce, Felix Figueroa, Ismael Rivera and Thomas Alarcon. This informed attorney appears to be generally correct but is misinformed in at least one instance.
The same source identifies seven defendants who are not prepared to proceed with a trial scheduled for November 24th and do not expect to negotiate plea deals before then. Those defendants, according to the attorney, are Anthony Mark Tinoco, William Michael Munz, Walter Ramirez, Manuel Armendariz, Mark Garcia, William Owens and Manuel Melgoza. The source is wrong about Owens. Another source has definitively told this page that Owens will go to trial on November 24th. This page has not been about to confirm whether Tinoco, Munz, Ramirez, Armendariz, Garcia or Melgoza will seek another continuance or not. The problem many defendants seem to have had in this case is full and complete discovery of the evidence against them.
The informed attorney further identifies defendants who expect to go to trial on November 24th as former club President Hector Gonzalez, Jr., Robert Vincent Rios, Jorge Viramontes, Anthony Zuniga, Jon Jay Morein, Raymond Anthony Trujillo, Renato Gomez, Ismael David Padilla, Jr. and Jose Morales.
One defendant, Lawrence Wilson, is known to be cooperating with the prosecution. The actions and intentions of the remaining four defendants is unknown to the informed attorney and is difficult to discern from public documents. Those defendants are Ruben Cavazos, Jr., Ismael Padilla, Edward Moreno and Lance Eustice.
The Restraining Order
It has now been more than a month since attorneys representing the Mongol Nation Motorcycle Club corporation asked the presiding judge in this case, Florence-Marie Cooper, to modify a restraining order she issued a year ago regarding the motorcycle club’s registered trademarks.
The two trademarks are the word “Mongols” and the Mongols logo which is a line drawing of a Mongol warrior wearing a top knot and bell bottom jeans, brandishing a scimitar while riding a motorcycle with a rigid frame. Judge Cooper agreed with the government last October, that the name “Mongols” was a valuable asset of what might be a criminal organization and so should be “preserved.”
Zealous agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives interpreted this restraining order to mean that, “any law enforcement officer (who) sees a Mongol wearing his patch…will be authorized to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back.” At the end of July, in a civil case titled Ramon Rivera versus Ronnie A. Carter et al., Judge Cooper made it clear that her injunction did not mean that.
Government prosecutors objected to the modification of the restraining order a month ago. As of today, October 13th, Judge Cooper has still not ruled on the Mongols motion.
The Colorado case accuses eleven members of the Mongols Motorcycle Club of drug sales, talking about drug sales on the telephone, identity theft, wire fraud, witness intimidation, possessing a motor vehicle that did not have a valid Vehicle Identification Number, and illegally possessing firearms. None of these defendants is accused of racketeering.
The lead defendant in this case, Benjamine Maestas, agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors last May. The deal was sealed. Maestas appears to be cooperating with the government and his ten codefendants have been trying to unseal his plea and sentencing agreement for the last four months.
The judge in the case, Robert E. Blackburn, seems determined to keep Maestas agreement secret. He denied a motion to unseal the deal on September 28th. Another hearing is scheduled for November 30th. No trial date has been set.
Christopher Bryan Ablett is accused of murdering Mark Guardado, then President of the Frisco charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, last September and like the Mongols defendants in Los Angeles, he is accused of racketeering. Most of Ablett’s indictment is really an indictment of the Mongols. The club is accused of “maintaining…control and authority” over “territory,” seeking to expand that territory and, “preserving, protecting and expanding the power of the Mongols through the use of intimidation, violence, threats of violence, assault and murder.”
After reiterating this charge of violent territoriality four or five different ways, Ablett’s indictment accuses him murdering Guardado “as consideration for the receipt of and as consideration for a promise and agreement to pay anything of pecuniary value from the Mongols and for the purpose of gaining entrance to and maintaining and increasing his position in the Mongols, an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity….”
Ablett faces a mandatory death sentence if he is convicted and his case has proceeded very deliberately. Ablett changed attorneys on September 23rd and since that time no additional hearings have been scheduled in his case.