A Whittier woman was sentenced Monday to more than a dozen years behind bars for acting as a “secretary” to her brother — an imprisoned Mexican Mafia member — by obtaining orders during visits to Pelican Bay State Prison and relaying instructions to members of an associated gang on the street.

Sylvia Olivas, 73, held a “powerful and highly respected role” within the Santa Fe Springs-based criminal organization, prosecutors wrote in court papers.

Evidence at trial revealed that Olivas passed messages from her younger brother, David Gavaldon, who is serving a life sentence, to two generations of shot callers, delivering edicts to the street, and secretly meeting with other gang members to collect extortion payments and launder them through her accounts.

Prosecutors noted Olivas’ “high status in the enterprise and her continuing and unwavering commitment to the organization” as aggravating factors supporting the 151-month federal prison sentence.

U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer rejected the defense recommendation of time served, followed by 10 years of federal supervision in which Olivas would be confined to her home until she is 83 years old.

Olivas was convicted in February of racketeering offenses after a 10-day jury trial in downtown Los Angeles.

Although her childhood in East Los Angeles was difficult, it does not “excuse defendant’s involvement in the (gang) as an adult for at least nearly a decade, her unwillingness to accept responsibility for her actions, and her lack of respect for the court and for the justice system, as evidenced by her perjury on the witness stand,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum.

Olivas “chose to participate in a criminal enterprise, despite having the maturity to understand exactly what she was doing,” they wrote.

Prosecutors say the Mexican Mafia has about 140 mostly imprisoned members, drawn from Latino street gangs in the Southland, and control street gangs in Los Angeles from their prison cells with the use of “secretaries” to relay information.

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