"Mexican George" Torres

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"Mexican George" Torres

Unread post by AllhoodPublications » June 8th, 2009, 11:25 pm

Big Drug Dealer that the General Public knew nothing about for decades.

He's off the east side low bottoms..

Named as one of the so-called successful drug dealers in the Drug Dealer discussion by Alonso

Grocery King George Torres Fingered in Murders
Published on June 14, 2007

One of many properties Torres owns in Los Angeles (Photo by Rena Kosnett)

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FEDERAL PROSECUTORS on Wednesday afternoon charged George Torres, one of South Los Angeles’ largest property owners and the owner of the Numero Uno supermarket chain, with conspiracy to commit murder. Also charged on a variety of racketeering offenses, such as extortion and bribery, were several codefendants, including Torres’ brother Manuel, son Steven and former Los Angeles city planning commissioners Steve Carmona and George Luk.

The federal indictment was unsealed in federal court in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Searight, who filed the indictment, requested that the court unseal it. High-powered attorneys Brian Sun and Jeff Rawitz of the firm Jones Day were in court to represent Torres, and Sun called it “an unusual case,” adding, “Mr. Torres is a standup businessman. He built his business through hard work and community development.” Rawitz commented on the indictment, “It’s an incredible document.”

The indictment charges Torres with bribing then–city planning commissioner Steve Carmona to gain approval of an alcohol permit at one of his South L.A. markets. “Is there any bling-bling?” Carmona said in a voice-mail message for Torres on March 19, 2004, the indictment states.

The racketeering offenses date back to 1985 and include a series of allegations over the course of 20 years, among them possession of stolen goods, conspiracy to commit murder, harboring of undocumented aliens and conspiracy to engage in extortion and bribery. “Torres exploited his own workers through physical intimidation and hired drug dealers as muscle,” Searight said.

Humberto Diaz, attorney for former Los Angeles city planning commissioner Luk, had no comment. Mark Werksman, the attorney for Carmona, a former Los Angeles city Central Area planning commissioner, did not return calls at press time.

Agents with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program took Torres into custody at his home Tuesday in Arcadia and searched his business headquarters at 700 East Jefferson Boulevard, also arresting his brother, son and others in what figures to be a complex and riveting federal racketeering case against one of L.A.’s most mysterious businessmen.

Torres started out with a food cart on a street corner in the humble neighborhoods south of downtown Los Angeles, in the LAPD’s Newton Division, and amassed a small empire of grocery stores and real estate holdings stretching from industrial properties in South L.A. to a horse farm in Santa Barbara County.

But with his arrest Tuesday and the charges filed against him Wednesday afternoon, his rags-to-riches story will be tainted by the federal charges.

Torres is best known as a former business associate of Horacio “Carlos” Vignali, who in the late 1990s lobbied city officials, state legislators, U.S. congressmen, former U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas and Cardinal Roger Mahony to write letters urging President Bill Clinton to grant clemency to Vignali’s drug-dealer son, Carlos Vignali Jr., leading in part to a national scandal known as “Pardongate.”

However, Vignali is not named in the Torres indictment.

Torres is one of the largest, if not the largest, private landowners in South L.A., with his holdings starting at Washington Boulevard and extending south. His Numero Uno markets have flourished throughout the Los Angeles area, and he was estimated at one time to have a net worth of at least $300 million, according to Drug Enforcement Administration documents obtained by the L.A. Weekly.

In the past, he has been convicted of several gun-possession charges, including a probation violation for being a felon in possession of a gun, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. But DEA documents also state that the LAPD named him a suspect in two murders dating back to the 1990s. Those documents surfaced in 2002 as part of a congressional report resulting from Pardongate.

The Weekly explored Pardongate in detail in 2005, including the history of business and real estate transactions between Torres and Vignali. LAPD sources confirmed for the Weekly at the time that Torres was under investigation for the suspected murder of a former employee gone missing and presumed dead. At the time of his disappearance in the late 1990s, that employee, Ignacio Meza, was wanted for conspiracy to distribute cocaine by federal authorities in Alabama. The indictment alleges that Torres conspired with Meza to commit a pair of murders — and then had Meza himself murdered. His body has not been found.

Torres’ attorneys, Michael Adelson and Robert Eisfelder, confirmed for the Weekly at that time that detectives searched Torres’ Jefferson Boulevard warehouse, which sits adjacent to his flagship market, in late 2004, but insist police found nothing to implicate Torres in anything illegal. In a 2005 interview, Eisfelder denied strenuously that his client was involved with any illegal activity.

“As we look closely into his affairs, we find him to be a Horatio Alger–type figure, a self-made man whose story is an inspiration,” Eisfelder said at the time.


THE TORRES-VIGNALI CONNECTION is explored in detail in a congressional report that resulted from Pardongate, when revelations surfaced that President Clinton granted clemency for Carlos Vignali Jr. — convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 15 years in federal prison in 1995 — along with other convicted criminals and one-time international fugitive Marc Rich. The granting of clemency occurred after payments were made to Clinton’s brother-in-law, Hugh Rodham, the brother of former first lady, New York state senator and 2008 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Released in March 2002 by the congressional Committee on Government Reform, “Justice Undone: Clemency Decisions in the Clinton White House” details Hugh Rodham’s involvement in the Vignali affair, as well as the long business history Vignali once shared with George Torres.


One of many properties Torres owns in Los Angeles (Photo by Rena Kosnett)The report takes to task top L.A. elected officials, including county Supervisor Gloria Molina, then–state Senator Richard Polanco, then–state Assemblyman Antonio Villaraigosa and U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra, among others, for lobbying on behalf of Vignali Jr., in light of his drug conviction and the fact that DEA agents long suspected Vignali Sr. to be involved in drug trafficking — along with Torres. While a member of the California state Assembly, Villaraigosa wrote the first letter on Vignali’s behalf on May 24, 1996.

In particular, L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca and former U.S. Attorney Alejandro Mayorkas were heavily criticized for lobbying for Vignali Jr.’s clemency. The report found the input of Sheriff Baca and Mayorkas to the White House to be “instrumental” in the decision to grant clemency to Vignali Jr., who at his drug-trafficking trial in 1994 confirmed a close family association with Torres. Attorneys for Torres told the Weekly in 2005 that the association between the Vignalis and Torres has long since ended.

It is unclear if any of the DEA documents incorporated in the congressional report form the basis of any of the charges filed Wednesday against Torres. However, the indictment states that associates of Torres distributed large quantities of cocaine and received cars and free grocery-store items in exchange for taking violent actions on behalf of Torres.

According to 1993 and 1997 DEA reports, Torres allegedly maintained a Jefferson Boulevard warehouse full of luxury vehicles, antique lowriders, and tractor-trailers used to move cocaine by concealing the drugs inside laundry detergent and jalapeño-chile cans. He and Vignali were identified as immediate targets of a drug-trafficking investigation, the reports state. The reports further state that the DEA had been informed that the Torres drug-trafficking outfit came into existence in the mid-1980s, distributing 1,800 kilos by the early 1990s.

A 1998 DEA report states that the elder Vignali was believed to be a financial partner in the Torres organization, allegedly setting up meetings between Torres and “individuals with extensive criminal backgrounds.” They were moving 100 kilos per month, the report states. In 1996, the report states, Torres’ grocery stores had sales of $50 million. Investigators believed he was laundering drug money through his stores and real estate transactions. Searight said the government lacks sufficient proof to file drug charges.

Public records show Torres and Vignali engaged in numerous multimillion-dollar property transactions, either as partners or on opposite sides of a deal. The elder Vignali was known as a well-heeled businessman who rubbed elbows with politicians. After his son was convicted, he contributed more than $160,000 to state and federal officeholders — as well as to many local officials, including Baca. Torres was described in DEA reports as a tattooed heavy who flaunted Mexican Mafia connections and liked to intimidate his adversaries.

The DEA reports are untrue, Adelson, an attorney for Torres, told the Weekly in 2005. “They are based on layers of hearsay by persons with something to gain and whom the government has not identified,” he said, emphasizing that Torres no longer had business or personal relationships with the Vignalis. “That is an unfortunate association,” said Torres’ attorney, Brian Sun, on Wednesday.

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Re: "Mexican George" Torres

Unread post by AllhoodPublications » June 10th, 2009, 12:13 am

Arcadia supermarket owner released by federal judge after new evidence emerges

By Dan Abendschein, Staff Writer
06/09/2009 06:57:57 PM PDT


LOS ANGELES - A federal judge overturned several charges in the case of an Arcadia man accused of running his grocery store chain business like an organized crime ring.

George Torres, 52, had been convicted of racketeering charges, solicitation of murder, and multiple other tax and fraud charges when prosecutors came forward with new evidence that appeared to exonerate him on the more serious charges.

Torres, who owns the Los Angeles-based Numero Uno grocery store chain, was released from federal custody Tuesday, after being held without bail for two years.

His lawyer, Steve Madison, also a Pasadena councilman, filed a motion alleging government misconduct in holding back evidence last month.

"There was just a pattern in the case of non-disclosure of material that was troubling," said Madison. "Only with the motion did they dig deeper and look carefully at all the evidence they had on my client."

Federal authorities had a different take on the recently-discovered new evidence.

"Once we discovered the evidence and realized what it was, we immediately turned it over, even though it hurt our case," said Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek.

Some of the convictions against Torres, including several tax charges were upheld, though Madison has filed a motion to have those dismissed as well.

If those convictions are not overturned, prison time could still be a possibility for Torres, said Mrozek, though he now has credit for two years of time served during the court process.

Torres had been accused of involvement in the killing of a worker at the 11-market Numero Uno chain.

The worker, Ignacio Meza, disappeared in 1998 following the theft of $500,000 from a Numero Uno market on Jefferson Street in Los Angeles.

Before the disappearance, prosecutors allege Meza had killed two gang members for George Torres.

The government also said he bribed public officials to help him get liquor licenses, staffed his stores with illegal immigrants, evaded taxes, shook down shoplifters in exchange for not reporting them to police, and traded in stolen meat and produce.

Much of the case was built on information from current and former Numero Uno employees, as well as telephone wiretaps.

The new evidence that exonerated Torres were tapes that were recorded at a Santa Ana jail where star prosecution witness Raul Del Real was being held, attorneys said.

Details of the taped conversations were not revealed in court, but Torres' attorneys have long maintained that convicted drug trafficker Del Real and other informants called to testify had been improperly coached by a somewhat mysterious Los Angeles police detective who never took the stand.

A Mexican national who grew up in Los Angeles, Torres developed his Numero Uno chain more than 20 years ago in blighted areas of the city. Since the indictment, Torres has sold most of the business, but still retains ownership of a couple of markets, his attorneys said.

A hearing is scheduled for June 30 to review the motion to dismiss the other charges.

- City News Service contributed to this report.

dan.abendschein@sgvn.com

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