Bill Richardson: The threat presented by the Mexican Mafia to Arizona is real and will only continue to grow like it has for more than 30 years if serious measures aren’t taken by law enforcement and policymakers.
“Prison gangs like the Mexican Mafia, Aryan Brotherhood, and Black Guerrilla Family are violent organized crime syndicates that operate freely in our communities. Although small in numbers, their influence on hundreds of streets gangs and crime in Arizona is tremendous. They are the No. 1 crime threat to Arizona.” — United States Marshal for Arizona, David Gonzales
There was only a small story in the newspaper about deputy U.S. marshals and local police tracking down and arresting Eduardo Ochoa on March 10. The Associated Press story in the Tribune was 125 words. I couldn’t find a story about his arrest in Arizona’s largest newspaper.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio gets more press when dozens of his deputies arrest a couple of illegal aliens at a car wash.
Why should law-abiding citizens care about Ochoa?
Because according to federal authorities Ochoa, an ex-con, is reportedly a “documented Mexican Mafia gang member and an investigative lead in multiple homicides within the past month in the Phoenix metropolitan area.”
And according to law enforcement sources he’s part of a growing presence of the Mexican Mafia in Arizona.
The Arizona Department of Corrections Web site says the Mexican Mafia in Arizona was formed in the early 1970s.
What started out as a small gang of Mexican-American inmates who banded together for protection and to perpetrate criminal activity inside of prison is now a statewide organized crime syndicate that controls much of the crime inside of prisons, county jails and on the streets of Arizona.
For almost four decades the Mexican Mafia and other prison gangs have grown in Arizona. With the federal government’s emphasis on international terrorism and the state’s exaggerated focus on arresting illegal immigrants and other publicity-grabbing efforts, gangs have been able to grow to the point where law enforcement may never be able to put the gang crime genie back into the bottle.
In a February 2009 letter to the Tribune, the Arizona Department of Public Safety estimated 60 percent of serious crime in Arizona is committed by organized crime gangs.
The March 2009 National Drug Intelligence Center, Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Drug Market Analysis reported the Mexican Mafia in Arizona works with numerous gangs to transport tons of marijuana into Tucson and the Valley for distribution.
Police tell me the Mexican Mafia also controls heroin distribution.
A 2008 HIDTA report said the Mafia taxes gangs that distribute illicit drugs, and if a gang doesn’t pay the tax it owes, “violent retribution usually ensues.”
Last month, San Diego TV station KGTV reported in a series called I-Team Investigates Mexican Mafia’s Control Of Drug Trade that “the Mexican Mafia extracts a 10 percent tax from anyone doing drug business in San Diego and Orange County.”
One can only wonder if the Mexican Mafia will begin taxing legitimate businesses for protection in the same entrepreneurial model used by organized crime groups throughout the world?
The Mexican Mafia has grown into a criminal enterprise that is really good at what it does, committing crime, making money and gaining power.
The U.S. Department of Justice has documented the links between the Mexican drug cartels and the Mexican Mafia. San Diego’s KGTV reported the “cartels come over here, they have to deal with the Mexican Mafia.”
Unfortunately the Mexican Mafia hasn’t been given the attention and adversarial respect it deserves and has earned when it comes to committing crime.
It’s no wonder it has grown from a handful of inmates at the Florence prison into a crime syndicate with ties to international drug cartels. Prison walls haven’t protected Arizona from the Mexican Mafia.
Even though the U.S. Marshals, FBI Violent Crime Task Force, Phoenix and Chandler police departments and Arizona Attorney General’s Office have done an outstanding job targeting Mexican Mafia members, there still exists no statewide strategy to coordinate all city, county, state and federal efforts against organized crime gangs in Arizona.
The threat presented by the Mexican Mafia to Arizona is real and will only continue to grow like it has for more than 30 years if serious measures aren’t taken by law enforcement and policymakers. If Arizona is serious about its future it needs to get serious about the Mexican Mafia.
Unfortunately Eduardo Ochoa is just the tip of the Mafia iceberg.