Greg Risling, San Francisco Chronicle, June 7, 2011
A Latino gang conspired to rid a Southern California city of its black residents through intimidation, threats and violence dating back to the early 1990s to exert its influence and show its loyalty to the Mexican Mafia prison gang, according to a federal racketeering indictment unsealed Tuesday.
More than 50 people were charged as authorities made early morning raids targeting the Varrio Azusa 13 gang. Federal prosecutors said the gang engaged in a host of crimes ranging from drug trafficking to hate crimes that have hobbled Azusa, a city of about 45,000 residents near Los Angeles.
The crackdown is the latest effort by law enforcement to cripple Latino gangs that have targeted blacks in the Los Angeles area.
In 2009, more than 140 members and associates of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang were charged in connection with waging a racist campaign against black people. Four years ago, authorities arrested dozens of members of South Los Angeles’ Florencia 13 gang in connection with the killing of blacks because of the color of their skin.
In Azusa, six people have been charged with civil rights violations for allegedly harassing, and in some cases attacking, African Americans to drive them out of the city or to prevent them from relocating there. Most of the defendants named in the indictment face a minimum 10-year prison sentence.
More than two-thirds of Azusa is Hispanic, while roughly 3 percent is black. The city has tried to address the racial problem after the number of hate crimes peaked at 17 in 2000 then dropped to about one a year since 2006, said Azusa Police Chief Robert Garcia.