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Walnut Man Among 18 Arrested on Racketeering, Drug Charges

Manuel Valencia, 36, was allegedly a "shot caller" in one of the gangs investigated.

A Walnut man is among 18 defendants law enforcement officers arrested today and named in federal grand jury indictments related to a two-and-a-half-year investigation of South Los Angeles street gangs allegedly controlled by a Mexican Mafia member.

Manuel Valencia, 36, was allegedly a "shot caller" in one of the gangs investigated, according to a Department of Justice news release.

A 60-count rackateering indictment focuses on a South Los Angeles street gang that is reportedly controlled by an alleged member of the Mexican Mafia named Danny Roman.

The 29-defendant indictment alleges violations of the Rackateer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act but does not formally charge Roman, who is serving a life sentence without parole at Pelican Bay State Prison.  However, Roman's daughter and her husband are defendants and were believed to be acting on behalf of Roman, authorities said.

The indictiment alleges that Roman directed gang members to engage in criminal conduct, including collecting "taxes" from businesses and gangs through threats of violence, including murder. The money collected was then funneled to Roman in state prison. 

Also alleged are specific criminal acts including the distribution of methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocain, and heroin; the murder of a gang member who owed a debt to another gang member; robberies targeting USC students; and conspiracies to commit murder, including a plot to kill a witness in a state court case against a member of another gang.     

Roman's daughter and her husband allegedly receive order from Roman and pass them on to the "shot caller" and other high-ranking members of the gang. The shot caller, identified as Valencia in the indictment, controls and enforces the collection of tax payments from gangs under Roman's control and issues orders to gangs regarding drug sales and the use of violence, authorities said.   

The Los Angeles High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, comprised of officers from the Los Angeles Police Department and agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, conducted the investigation.

Operation Roman Empire prompted the seizure of around 8.5 pounds of methamphetamine, about one-half pound of heroin,approximately one pound of cocaine, 23 pounds of marijuana and 22 guns. Two more firearms were seized today and 10 children were removed from several residents by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services' Multi-Agency Response Team.

The 18 defendants arrested in today's takedown are as follows:

  • Vianna Roman, 37, of Los Angeles, who is Danny Roman’s daughter;
  • Manuel Valencia, 36, of Walnut, the alleged shot caller of a key gang involved;
  • Aaron Soto, 40, of Los Angeles, Vianna Roman’s husband, who allegedly is one of the gang’s leaders;
  • Jaime Montano, 32, of Los Angeles, an alleged gang member who allegedly led a conspiracy to murder a witness in a trial against another gang member;
  • Bryan Valencia, 26, of Los Angeles, who allegedly sold drugs and collected “taxes” from gangs under Danny Roman's control;
  • Eduardo Ramirez, 22, of Los Angeles, who allegedly supplied firearms and drugs to gang members;
  • Juan Delgado, 32, of Los Angeles, who allegedly collected taxes from gangs;
  • Carlos Delgado, 20, of Los Angeles, who allegedly assisted in the sale and delivery of methamphetamine;
  • Jimmy Ramos, 28, of Los Angeles, who allegedly sold methamphetamine and transported large amounts of cash;
  • Jorge Sanchez, 31, of Los Angeles, a suspected gang member who allegedly sold methamphetamine;
  • Gwendolyn Etta, 34, of Los Angeles, who allegedly sold methamphetamine with Jorge Sanchez;
  • Marilyn Eta, 27, of Los Angeles, who allegedly assisted Manuel Bonilla in the sale of drugs and helped Bonilla hide from the police after Bonilla allegedly murdered a customer over a drug debt;
  • Mario Basulto, 27, of Victorville, who allegedly sold drugs and cellular telephones inside a California state prison;
  • Ronnie Orozco, 37, of Los Angeles, a suspected gang member who allegedly oversaw the collection of taxes from the Alameda Swap Meet;
  • Angel Cenea, 22, of Hollywood, a suspected gang member who allegedly attempted to smuggle drugs and cellular telephones into a California state prison;
  • Nancy Buckley, 28, of Los Angeles, who allegedly helped her husband, Iman Buckley, funnel drug proceeds to Danny Roman;
  • Denise Halawi, 41, of San Bernardino, who allegedly conspired in the sale of methamphetamine; and
  • Walter Alarcon, 36, of Los Angeles, a suspected gang member who is charged by himself in an indictment that accuses him of distributing methamphetamine.

The defendants arrested this morning are expected to be arraigned today in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles. Eight people charged as part of Operation Roman Empire are already in state custody on other charges. They are:  

  • David Carpinteyro, 32, a suspected gang leader who allegedly collected taxes from gangs and enforced collection of the taxes with threats of violence;
  • Manuel Bonilla, 25, who allegedly sold large quantities of methamphetamine and crack cocaine, and who faces state court charges of murdering a customer over a drug debt;
  • Jose Renteria, 33, a suspected gang member who allegedly sold heroin inside a California state prison;
  • Iman Buckley, 30, who also allegedly sold heroin inside a California state prison;
  • Miguel Delgado, 18, who allegedly committed an armed robbery against three USC students;
  • Christopher Velasquez, 22, who allegedly sold crack cocaine;
  • Edgar Gonzalez, 28, who allegedly represented Danny Roman while incarcerated in an Arizona state prison; and
  • Johnny Barron, 23, who is charged by himself in an indictment that accuses him of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Five defendants named in the indictment who are either fugitives or have yet to be completely identified by investigators. They are:

  • Ramon Ramos, 36, of Los Angeles, who allegedly supplied methamphetamine to Manuel Valencia for distribution among gang members;
  • Daniel Palacio, 30, of Los Angeles, who allegedly supplied firearms to members of the gang;
  • Ricardo Gallegos, 33, who allegedly committed an armed carjacking with other gang members;
  • “Tigre,” a suspected gang member who allegedly oversaw the collection of taxes from the Alameda Swap Meet; and
  • “Jimmy,” who allegedly assisted in the sale of methamphetamine.

If convicted, all but one of the defendants face a maximum statutory sentences of life in federal prison, authorities said.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.          The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation also participated in this investigation.  Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents assisted with today's arrests. 

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