A member of a Mexican Mafia-affiliated street gang operating in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs was sentenced Monday to four decades in federal prison for a series of violent crimes, including the 2016 murder of a rival gang member outside a San Gabriel Valley restaurant.
Leonardo “Rowdy” Antolin was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips, who said the 25-year-old defendant had shown a “lack of concern for members of the community” through his acts of violence.
The Whittier man pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act — RICO — conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to traffic in controlled substances and discharging a firearm during a violent crime, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
On April 19, 2016, Antolin murdered a Mexican Mafia member who wanted to expand his influence and challenge the authority of other Mexican Mafia members in the San Gabriel Valley. During the incident at a restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley community of Bassett, the victim was fatally shot, his bodyguard was severely wounded and an innocent restaurant patron was severely wounded when she was shot six times while sitting with her husband in the direct line of fire.
Antolin’s conviction arose from a 2016 Los Angeles federal grand jury indictment charging 51 defendants that was the result of Operation Frog Legs, so called because the name of the gang, Canta Ranas, Spanish for “Singing Frogs.”
Prosecutors have won more than 40 convictions so far in the case. The lead defendant, Jose Loza, 41, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 24 in downtown Los Angeles.
Loza faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison after a jury in 2019 found him guilty of a dozen felonies, including the murder in the restaurant, after a 15-day trial.
“There can be no more serious offense than taking the life of another human being and here, defendant conspired to murder, and did, in fact, murder (the) victim … pursuant to a premeditated, cold-blooded plan hatched by co-defendant Loza,” prosecutors wrote in the government’s sentencing memorandum.
Antolin also was heavily involved in narcotics trafficking on the gang’s behalf. He further acted as an enforcer who collected extortion taxes, which were required to be paid by not only members and associates of the criminal enterprise but also any individual who committed revenue-generating crimes within the enterprise’s territory.