A Mexican Mafia associate who ordered murders and assaults in Orange County’s jail system on the prison gang’s behalf was sentenced Monday to 17 1/2 years in federal prison.

Ramon Alvarez, 45, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court in June 2017 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, admitting that from October 2008 until September 2013, he assisted the Mexican Mafia while he was a jail inmate.

Alvarez was given the power to place fellow inmates on “hard candy” or “green light” lists, which marked the inmates for murder or assault within the Orange County jail system, according to prosecutors.

In December 2011, Alvarez authorized a co-conspirator to stab and kill a jail inmate, according to court documents. The following year, he identified an inmate who was cooperating with law enforcement in a third prisoner’s murder trial, and other Mexican Mafia associates assaulted the cooperator at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange.

The prison gang’s Orange County faction was headed by Peter Ojeda, a longtime Mexican Mafia member who controlled Latino street gangs in Orange County for at least three decades. Ojeda was found guilty in 2016 of racketeering offenses and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

Ojeda, who died behind bars in 2018 at the age of 76, was involved in the operation and management of the Mexican Mafia’s activities in Orange County, which included orchestrating murder schemes, extortion and narcotics trafficking.

Ojeda ordered Latino street gangs in Orange County to pay “taxes” that consisted of a portion of the proceeds the gangs earned from various criminal activities, including drug trafficking. In return, gang members were permitted to exert influence over their neighborhoods and territories and seek protection or assistance from the Mexican Mafia.

Alvarez was one of 25 defendants named in a RICO indictment brought as part of an operation code-named Smokin’ Aces, which was a multi-agency operation that targeted the Orange County wing of the Mexican Mafia and led to charges against more than 80 defendants in federal court. In total, prosecutors have secured 76 convictions in those cases.

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