Photo via [Public Domain] Wikimedia Commons
Photo via [Public Domain] Wikimedia Commons

The co-leader of a Mexican Mafia-controlled gang that operated in a South Los Angeles neighborhood was sentenced Monday to six years behind bars.

Aaron Soto, 42, pleaded guilty last year to federal charges of racketeering conspiracy and possession of a firearm for use in a crime of violence.

Soto helped run the Harpys gang, also known as the Harpys-Dead End gang, which controlled illegal activities in an area southwest of downtown that stretched from Normandie Avenue to Figueroa Street and Washington Boulevard to Jefferson Boulevard.

Thirty members of the gang were targeted in three federal indictments resulting from “Operation Roman Empire,” a multi-agency investigation named for Mexican Mafia member Danny Roman, who oversaw the gang while serving a life sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Soto is married to Roman’s daughter, Vianna, who also pleaded guilty in the case and is set to be sentenced next week. Prosecutors describe the couple as de facto leaders of the gang.

According to the charges, the couple received orders during visits to Pelican Bay in Northern California. They in turn passed Roman’s wishes to high- ranking Harpys who oversee drug sales and retaliation in gang territory, prosecutors said. A cut of the extorted cash was funneled to Roman in state custody.

Soto admitted involvement in the extortion of vendors at the Alameda Swap Meet, which is outside of Harpys’ territory but within an area controlled by Roman.

The flea market has long been a central location for criminal activity by members of the 38th Street gang, who are also allegedly under Roman’s control.

During the course of “Operation Roman Empire” last year, investigators seized more than eight pounds of meth, almost a half-pound of heroin, about one pound of cocaine, 23 pounds of marijuana and 22 guns.

In addition, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office filed civil enforcement actions to curb the gang’s activity at two South Los Angeles locations.

—City News Service

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