18th Street – MacArthur Park area, Los Angeles

18th Street (MacArthur Park / Westlake) is a predominately Latino street gang, and one of several different gangs under the 18th Street identity. The particular gang is located in the the Westlake section of Los Angeles just west of downtown Los Angeles and they formed during the late 1960s.

This is the poorest 18th Street community of all their varrios and this community is prone to high levels of drug use and abuse. Because drug trafficking is heavy in this community, law enforcement has paid more attention to this 18th Street community, more than any of the other one. By 1985 the Columbia Lil Cycos click was formed and it eventually grew to become the most active click of 18th Street.

During the early 1990s when Mexican Mafia member Vevesi “Vesi” Sagato (1956 – 2018) was released from prison, he instituted the new structure of taxing gang members and sharing the profits. Sagato, 31 at the time, was also working with another new Mexican Mafia member, Franscisco “Puppet” Martinez (1964 – ) and showing how the rules were to be enforced in this Westlake community. Sagato was sent back to prison, and Puppet was able administer the gang business according to Mexican Mafia rules.

He was controlling the gang and receiving profits of all drug transactions in the community. When he was arrested on a gun violation in early 1993, other eMe brothers tried to take control of his area and take profits from his gang and funnel them to another gang. Mexican Mafia member Ernest “Chuco” Castro from Varrio Nuevo Estrada tried to collect drug profits from Puppet’s area by sending 18th Street gang member, Carlos Alberto “Truco” Lopez. Although Puppet was incarcerated he was still instructing members of the gang what to do and he ordered Truco killed. On September 4, 1994, 18th Street members Anthony “Coco” Zaragoza and Juan Manuel “Termite” Romero shot and killed Truco and his female companion, Donatilla Contreras. Ramiro “Greedy” Valerio informed the LAPD of the double murder but they released him.

In 1995 Mexican Mafia member Reuben “Night Owl” Castro was named in a 22 person indictment that led to a LIFE sentence that he is serving in Florence, Colorado.

In 1998 or 1999 Juan Manuel “Termite” Lopez made a decision to stop paying taxes to Puppet through is wife Janie. He called a meeting at 6th & Alvarado informing 18th Street gang members of the Columbia Lil Cycos and 2nd Street clicks of his decision. Other tax collectors present at the meeting included Carlos “Tiny” Carcamo, Juan “Woody” Recinos, Eduardo “Junior” Panameno, Luis “Lil Junior” Ramirez, Milton Toscano, Eduardo “Oso” Hernandez, William “Peanut” Gonzalez, Richard “Santos” Mendoza and Jose “Skipper” DelAguila. Termite said that without us the Mexican Mafia has not real power. Because of this defiant move, from prison, Puppet ordered Tiny to kill Termite. Tiny shot Termite in an unsuccessful attempt on his life, and while he was in the hospital, Tiny was able to take the leadership position in the Westlake area but shootings occurred between Tiny’s crew and Termites crew.

Termite tried to kill Tiny on three different occasions and Tiny unsuccessfully tried to kill 18th Street members Woody and Junior from Termite’s crew. Milton Toscano, a member of Tiny’s crew took the leadership but it was quickly taken away from Junior of Termite’s crew.

All of the details from the internal conflict occurring within the Westlake gang was eventually learned by a gang member turned confidential informant named Ramiro Alberto “Greedy” Valerio (b. July 12, 1973 – ). Greedy decided to provide information to the police after his brother died in 1992. He began meeting with the LAPD which included LAPD CRASH officer Ethan Cohan who was later fired in 1999 when he didn’t report the beating of 18th Street gang member Ismael “Loner” Jimenez by fellow officer Brian Hewitt but all his information continued to be used by investigators. Then Greddy agreed to work for the FEDS in 1997 wearing a wire recording all the gang’s drug business. His recordings led to the 1999 indictment of Francisco “Puppet” Martinez, his wife and 21 other members.

In 2002, the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office convicted Francisco “Puppet” Martinez on racketeering, murder and other charges. He received three life sentences and is serving time in Florence, Colorado.

Also in 2008, nine members of the 18th Street gang are named in a suit filed by Los Angeles city attorney Rocky Delgadillo demanding civil damages on behalf of residents of two Los Angeles neighborhoods. According to the suit, proceeds from the suit “if successful,” would be returned to the neighborhoods in question: The members named in the suit are:

  1. Frank “Puppet” Martinez
  2. Ruben “Nite Owl” Castro
  3. Sergio “Tricky” Pantoja
  4. Araceli “Traviesa” Bravo
  5. Michael “Mousie” Pineda
  6. Jose Juan “Wicked” Alvarez
  7. Noe “Lil Duster” Chavez
  8. Efrain “Dandy Boy” Ruiz Torres
  9. Jose “Toro” Morales Perez

Deceased members of this 18th Street section

  1. Javier “Lefty” Cazales, 27 ( July 9, 1968 – July 14, 1995), was shot and killed at 1811 W. 6th Street by fellow 18th Street gang member Snoopy for disrespecting Frank “Puppet” Martinez’ wife Janie Maria Garcia. 

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