Antigang Activist Faces Federal Racketeering Charges

By SABRINA SHANKMAN, The Wall Street Journal
June 25, 2009

LOS ANGELES — A nationally known antigang activist was among four people arrested by an FBI-led task force and named in a federal racketeering indictment unsealed Wednesday.

The charges against Alex Sanchez, the 37-year-old executive director of the antigang organization Homies Unidos, include conspiracy to commit murder — allegedly during his time with the group, which describes itself as a nonprofit that seeks to prevent gang violence.

A statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation didn’t link Homies Unidos itself to any alleged gang activity. The group, founded a decade ago, attempts to broker truces among rival gang factions and lobbies for increased job-training programs and other alternatives to gang life.

No representative from Homies Unidos was available for comment, and its Web site was no longer functioning Wednesday. However, attorney Alan Diamante, who has represented Mr. Sanchez on a previous legal matter and is a volunteer attorney with Homies Unidos, said, “As far as I’m aware, Alex Sanchez has not been involved in [gang activity] in any way other than trying to get kids away from the gang life. I cannot imagine him doing or being involved in the things he is being accused of.”

In his speeches and appearances on behalf of Homies Unidos, Mr. Sanchez has spoken openly about his past gang life, including his involvement in the Mara Salvatrucha-13, or MS-13, gang as a teenager. He has acted as an antigang activist for at least a decade. He was deported to his native country, El Salvador, in 1994 after being convicted of auto theft and parole violation. He snuck back into the U.S. illegally a year later, according to Mr. Diamante, who represented him at the time.

He was granted political asylum in the U.S. in 2002 after he successfully argued to the executive office of immigration review in San Pedro, Calif., that he had been harassed by the Los Angeles Police Department during the Rampart police-corruption scandal in the late 1990s. The auto-theft conviction was also overturned.

The indictment alleges that Mr. Sanchez, together with three members of MS-13, planned the 2006 murder of Walter Lacinos, who was shot to death in La Libertad, El Salvador. Mr. Sanchez is also accused in the indictment as being the “shot caller,” or leader, of the Normandie clique, or area, of MS-13’s territory, who also allegedly conspired with the others indicted to distribute cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine.

In a letter Mr. Sanchez wrote in November celebrating the 10th anniversary of Homies Unidos, he wrote: “Together we will succeed in creating opportunities to those facing the violence in our schools, community and homes.”

Wednesday’s 16-count indictment charges 24 alleged members and associates of MS-13 with racketeering crimes including murder, conspiracy to murder, extortion, robbery, narcotics trafficking and witness intimidation over a 15-year period.

Law-enforcement officials in the Los Angeles area have recently stepped up efforts against violent street gangs. U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien in May unsealed indictments against 147 alleged members of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang, who were charged with engaging in racially motivated attacks against African-Americans, among other offenses.

In February, local law-enforcement officials razed a house in northeastern Los Angeles that allegedly served as a hub for coordinating activity by the Avenues gang arm of the Mexican Mafia.

The Los Angeles Police Department estimates that there are more than 250 active gangs in Los Angeles, with a combined membership of more than 26,000 people. Over the past five years there have been 23,000 verified gang violent crimes in Los Angeles, including 784 homicides.

Posted by on Jun 26 2009. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Comments for “Antigang Activist Faces Federal Racketeering Charges”

  1. Administrator

    Alex Sanchez is being set up

  2. glockman

    alex didnt do it.

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