Photo by Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The former “shot caller” of a downtown Los Angeles street gang at the center of a racketeering indictment was sentenced Thursday to 24 years in federal prison.

Sergio “Tricky” Pantoja, 39, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson in a hearing that was closed to the public.

Pantoja pleaded guilty in February 2012 to charges contained in a federal racketeering indictment alleging conspiracy, murder, narcotics distribution, extortion and money laundering.

Prosecutors described Pantoja as the leader in 2005-2007 of the Columbia Lil Cycos clique of the 18th Street Gang controlled by a Mexican Mafia member serving life without parole at a federal “supermax” prison in Colorado.

According to the indictment, the gang used violence and intimidation to control crack cocaine dealing in the area adjoining MacArthur Park in the Westlake District for years.

Pantoja and other gang leaders demanded that drug suppliers and street dealers pay “rent” — a percentage of their proceeds — in exchange for protection and permission to sell in Cycos’ territory, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Pantoja faced the possibility of life in federal prison. However, he cooperated with the government and testified against fellow gang members.

On the stand at the trial of four Lil Cycos members several years ago, Pantoja described rising through the ranks and coming to run the clique’s drug- dealing, extortion and intimidation operations.

“If you want to be a big-time shot caller, or a member of the Mexican Mafia, you go with the program,” he told the jury.

Pantoja’s wife also pleaded guilty to federal charges and is awaiting sentencing.

— Wire reports 

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