The one-time girlfriend of Orange County Mexican Mafia chief Peter Ojeda was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in federal prison Monday.
Suzie Rodriguez, 55, who was convicted along with Ojeda of racketeering and criminal conspiracy to commit murder and assault with serious bodily injury in January, made an emotional appeal to U.S. District Judge James Selna for mercy. Selna had tentatively ruled he would sentence her to 88 months behind bars, but changed his mind after her statement and cut down her prison commitment by 10 months.
Her 74-year-old ex-boyfriend, Ojeda, was sentenced May 9 to 15 years in prison.
“I apologize to this court, the government, the community, the victims and my family for my poor behavior,” Rodriguez said.
She recalled how Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe McNally argued to have Rodriguez taken into custody following her January conviction.
“Today, I can thank Mr. McNally,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t have the physical freedom, but I’ve never felt more free in my mind.”
Since her conviction, Rodriguez earned her G.E.D. to complete her high school education, and she said she plans on taking college courses.
“It seems silly at 55 to finally achieve my G.E.D., but I consider that a big accomplishment,” Rodriguez said, adding she has not taken her schooling seriously before.
“As a career, I hope to be an advisor to abused women,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said she is on the path to reform, having taken classes on domestic violence while in custody and undergoing counseling and psychotherapy.
“I truly came to understand how my upbringing and all of my experiences as a child in an alcoholic home,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t understand how that dysfunction played a role in my decisions.”
Rodriguez said she is “proud of my father’s 30 years of sobriety,” and she credited him with instilling a strong work ethic in her.
She said she lost her home and her job of 17 years because of her legal problems, but, “I am planning upon completion of my sentence that I will be a law-abiding citizen.”
Rodriguez added, “I am truly sorry for all the pain I’ve caused.”
Selna noted that Rodriguez had agreed to plead guilty before trial. Her attorney said the deal was for six months if home confinement and six months in a halfway house, but that deal was withdrawn when Ojeda demanded trial.
“She convinced me here today that she has accepted responsibility,” Selna said.
The judge added that he also considered the “many good things” the defendant has done in her past.
“I trust you will continue with that part of your life when you’re out of custody,” Selna said.
Rodriguez was a “secretary” for the Mexican Mafia, meaning she helped Mexican Mafia gang members in prison communicate to with their associates while out of custody, according to McNally.
“The 78 months is a significant deterrent,” McNally told City News Service of the verdict.
The case against Ojeda stems from his incarceration in a Pennsylvania prison in 2006 when he turned to some close associates for help running the gang while he was away, McNally said at trial.
Ojeda’s prison sentence in 2006 should have ended his career, but instead he asked Armando “Hard Times” Moreno to head up the Orange County branch of the gang when they met in April 2007, McNally said.
Ojeda also turned to Donald “Big Sluggo” Aguilar, who was “like a brother” to the mob boss, McNally said.
“Sluggo was the guy, the keyholder here in Orange County,” McNally said.
Aguilar, in turn, tabbed Glenn “Tigre” Navarro, who also had a “stellar Mexican Mafia resume,” having “spent most of his life in prison,” McNally said.
Rodriguez was instrumental in helping to keep open lines of communication between Ojeda and his gang, McNally said. Often, the two would talk in “coded” language on the phone or in handwritten letters, the prosecutor said.
At some point, Moreno and Ojeda had a falling-out and a war broke out for control of the Orange County “branch” of the Mexican Mafia, McNally said.
Ojeda ordered hits on anyone associated with Moreno, and Moreno countered with his own list targeting supporters of “The Old Man,” McNally said.
Ojeda was losing ground in the war until he sent in reinforcements and ultimately prevailed, McNally said.
—City News Service