Vianna Roman, Alleged Queen of L.A.’s Harpys Gang

Christine Pelisek (The Daily Beast) | December 24, 2012

With her curly brown hair pulled back in a bun, Vianna Roman looks like she might be one of the moms you might meet at a PTA meeting. But Los Angeles prosecutors believe the 37-year-old is the de facto leader of a deadly South Los Angeles street gang called the Harpys and controlled by her father, Danny Roman, from his perch at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison.

Danny Roman was convicted of first-degree murder in 1984—when Vianna was just a 9-year-old girl—but still maintained his grip on the gang, rising through the ranks of the prison system to become a dreaded member of the Mexican Mafia, also known as La Eme, the Spanish word for the letter M. His daughter, prosecutors say, now does his bidding from a large business complex that she owns in South Los Angeles, which houses a dance hall, a meat market, and a number of small apartments.

On Dec. 12, Vianna Roman, whose actor son Bobby Soto Jr. appeared in the 2011 film A Better Life and in the ABC television drama Brothers & Sisters, arrived in federal court with waist, ankle, and wrist shackles and wearing an ill-fitting white prison jumpsuit on her heavyset frame. She pleaded not guilty to racketeering and conspiracy-to-commit-murder charges.

“Vianna was the person who was running the show and the leadership of the Harpys gang in Danny Roman’s stead,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Barron, who is prosecuting the case. “Her father really was someone who was feared and has control over the territory, and her leadership role emanated from that.”

Roman was arrested along with her 40-year-old husband, Aaron Soto, as part of Operation Roman Empire, a federal takedown by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Los Angeles Police Department of 29 members and associates of the Harpys gang. The gang, which has operated in South Los Angeles since the 1960s, is accused of extortion, the sales of drugs and guns, the armed robbery of three University of Southern California students, and the murder of a rival gang member.

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