A Los Angeles couple are scheduled to be sentenced June 3 for collecting and storing extortion payments and acting as intermediaries for his brother, an imprisoned Mexican Mafia member.
Thomas Gonzales, 60, and Gloria Valerio, 66, both of Elysian Valley, were found guilty Monday of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act after a two-week jury trial in Los Angeles federal court. Gonzales also was found guilty of making a false statement to a law enforcement officer, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Gonzales and his girlfriend were among 22 defendants indicted four years ago under federal racketeering charges connected to his brother, Arnie. The imprisoned gang leader had ordered the unification of three street gangs to control the drug trade in an area along the Los Angeles River from Elysian Park to Burbank and extort the area’s legitimate and illegal businesses, federal prosecutors said.
The government has obtained 19 convictions in the case with some defendants receiving sentences of up to 25 years behind bars. Gonzales and Valerio were the last two defendants still facing charges.
At trial, jurors saw more than 35 video clips from 11 prison visits in 2012 and 2013 where Valerio and Gonzales visited his brother, who’s serving a life sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison on a murder conviction.
As the gang leader’s eyes and ears on the streets, the couple stored the extortion money collected in his name. While some of the money was paid into the gang leader’s prison account, a search warrant executed at the defendants’ home in June 2015 resulted in the seizure of more than $22,000 in cash.
Evidence at trial also showed that the defendants used coded language to inform Arnie Gonzales about someone who was falsely claiming to have the authority to collect payments on his behalf. That person later was marked for death, the jury heard.
His brother and Valerio face up to 20 years each in federal prison on the racketeering conspiracy count, and Thomas Gonzales faces an additional possible five-year penalty on the false statements count, prosecutors said.
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