How Imprisoned Mexican Mafia Leader Exerts Secret Control Over L.A. Street Gangs
Michael Montgomery (KQED) | September 19, 2013
Running a criminal organization while locked inside one of America’s most secure prisons requires imagination, cunning and ruthlessness. It also demands a firm set of rules and a way to impose them on operatives on the streets, often violent and obstreperous gang members.
A secret letter allegedly sent from an inmate at Pelican Bay State Prison in Northern California to members of Florencia 13, a multi-generational street gang in south Los Angeles, details a covert network that has enriched the state’s most powerful prison gang, the Mexican Mafia.
The note was originally written in tiny script on a small scrap of paper known as a “kite,” smuggled out of Pelican Bay, recopied and then distributed to street gang members, according to federal prosecutors who are using it as evidence in a major crackdown in Los Angeles.
The letter outlines rules, or reglas, drawn up by Mexican Mafia members for associates operating on the streets. They include:
How street gangs and their sub-groups are governed, including the election of a president and vice president by “majority votes.”
How drug sales, prostitution and other illegal activities are organized and “taxed,” with a percentage going to gang leaders behind bars.
How disputes are settled.
How assaults and murders are authorized.
How snitches and sex offenders are rooted out and punished.
“We are forewarning everyone to cautiously respect these reglas and know there’s no 2nd chance,” reads the message, which was allegedly written by Arturo Castellanos, a convicted murderer who has been held in isolation at Pelican Bay since 1990. “We are Emeros (Mexican Mafia members) and we expect that these reglas are followed and respected by all true south-side Florencianos and Florencianas.”
Photo credit: Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation