The story of Dennis Gonzalez, the Mexican Mafia’s man (“associate,” ” camarada,” whatever) in Oklahoma City — like so many gangster tales — could begin in a lot of times and places.
Let’s start with what is perhaps the most breach-honored tradition of Latino gangs – never rat out your homies:
Oklahoma City gang member Jason “Joker” Lujan agreed to cooperate with authorities after his arrest in 2003, volunteering that several members of a Hispanic gang from California, later identified as the Compton Varrio Tortilla Flats, including “Boxer,” “Lalo,” and Mr. Lujan’s sister-in-law, Jennifer Lujan, had moved to Oklahoma City to deal large quantities of methamphetamine. Specifically, Mr. Lujan explained that Boxer, later identified as Dennis Emerson Gonzalez, had already left Oklahoma City but still ran the operation; Lalo, later identified as Eduardo Verduzco, delivered drugs to Oklahoma City at Mr. Gonzalez’s direction; Ms. Lujan distributed the drugs in Oklahoma City; and Mr. Gonzalez’s girlfriend, “Mousey,” stored the drugs in her apartment.
United States v. Castro, (10th Cir. Court of Appeals) May 30, 2007, 225 Fed. Appx. 755; 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 12543.
Oops. I guess Jason “Joker” Lujan did not get the omerta memo. You know. The one about never talking to law enforcement, death before dishonor, etc.
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Joker Lujan wasn’t the only homey throwing his fellow gangsters under the prison bus.
At about the same time, a Compton Varrio Tortilla Flats member was also talking to now-retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Richard Valdemar about the connection between Compton and Oklahoma City — including the long-distance control by the Mexican Mafia of a major part of the drug trade in Oklahoma City.
Valdemar’s notes of the conversation run to four single-spaced pages. Among other things, the informant — whose anonymity will be protected here — “said that he would be willing to cooperate with a federal investigation to bring down Dennis Gonzalez and his Mexican Mafia connections…”
But…wait. Mexican Mafia? In Oklahoma? As the following — admittedly crude — graphic illustrates, Oklahoma City (“where the wind comes sweeping down the plain”) is not in Southern California.
Nothing is so interesting about this sordid little drug-trafficking operation as the fact that it illustrates the powerful reach of EME half-way across the country, by means of its control over a Sureno gang, and that gang’s “muscling in” on what was a purely local Latino street gang, the “South Side Locos.” Another federal appellate case provides a bit more detail:
Mr. Lujan told the police that, beginning in early 2002, several members of a Hispanic gang from California, later identified as the Compton Varrio Tortilla Flats, moved to Oklahoma City to set up a methamphetamine-dealing operation. Mr. Lujan explained to the police that the members of the group included “Boxer,” one of his confederates later identified as Mr. Gonzalez, who ran the operation from Florida; “Lalo,” later identified as Eduardo Verduzco, who delivered the drugs to Oklahoma City at Mr. Gonzalez’s direction; and Jennifer Lujan, his sister-in-law, who distributed the methamphetamine.
United States v. Dennis Emerson Gonzalez, (10th Cir.), 238 Fed. Appx. 350; 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 15102, June 25, 2007.
An indictment in the case — in which most of the participants pleaded guilty, although Gonzalez and Castro went to trial and were convicted — described Gonzalez’s central managerial role:
During the period of the conspiracy … Gonzalez… exercised an organizing and leadership role in the drug trafficking enterprise by among other things, recruiting distributors, demanding a share of the profits in sales, controlling distributors, identifying persons to whom distributors should wire transfer money and directing the wire transfer of the money. The drug trafficking enterprise involved at least twenty individuals, in the coordinated smuggling of controlled substances from California to Oklahoma and the transfer of drug proceeds in at least 195 separate transactions.
Superseding Indictment, United States v. Dennis Emerson Gonzalez (U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma), Docket No. CR-04-179-R, October 20, 2004.
According to Valdemar’s informant, Gonzalez was acting as the Mexican Mafia’s representative, a function and organization described in the two earlier post in this series (here and here). There was the requisite whacking to bring recalcitrant locals into line. (Not that the South Side Locos are any angels. Two of them went to prison in 2006 for killing a 9-year old with stray bullets from a shooting.)
The question all of this raises is two fold: where else in “middle America” has the “California prison gang” EME taken control of local street gang operations, and what is the trend?
Valdemar is still very much active in the anti-gang world. He believes that the Mexican Mafia is very deliberately extending its reach and expanding its control throughout much of the United States. In other words, consolidating and integrating. It makes sense that EME could do that if it chose to, if you consider the number of Latino gangsters who roll in and out of prisons and jails at all levels, the dispersion of EME members throughout the federal prison system, and their presence in many state facilities.
The same bloody mechanism of control that worked in California can as well apply in any prison in which the Mexican Mafia has a beachhead: sooner or later a gang’s members are going to end up in a prison where they can be “green-lighted” for murder if the gang does not defer to EME on the streets.
What worries Valdemar is his belief that these tentacles out of California are invisible to many in law enforcement at all levels.