“Socalj” for Borderland Beat

The San Diego Police Department and the FBI arrested seven accused gang members and seized drugs and weapons from a stash house in Encanto, which was the focal point of “Operation Scrapbusters.”

Six men and a woman with ties to the Mexican Mafia were taken into custody, accused of selling drugs and staging kidnappings out of a house on Wunderlin Avenue near 68th Street, and using it to store weapons, cash, and drugs. 

More than a dozen weapons, including two explosive devices, were seized from the home, according to local and federal agents.
Pictures of seized items include pistols, shotguns, rifles, knives, a sword, a saw, a bullet-proof vest, a variety of drugs, and $27,000 in cash. Investigators also discovered evidence of kidnappings and extortion, San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said during a Tuesday morning news conference touting the success of the operation.
“We will relentlessly pursue justice against those who terrorize our neighborhoods with gang violence, guns, and the scourge of fentanyl,” Randy Grossman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, said. Six of the defendants were arraigned last week and the seventh is scheduled to be arraigned this Friday.
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The gang members operating out of the home were apparently being controlled by a boss far away. “What is disturbing is that the key leader of the Mexican Mafia had his tentacles in this particular criminal organization and was doing it from death row in prison,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. 

However, this is precisely the specialty of the Mexican Mafia or La Eme as they are also known. The prison gang controls much of the Sureno street gang activity and their drug trade in Southern California and other areas.

Mexican Mafia member Ronnie Ayala and his brother Hector in the early 1990s.

Leader Ronnie Ayala

This leader’s name is Ronnie Ayala, according to Stephan, and he landed on death row for the 1985 killing of three men in southeastern San Diego. He has been in prison since 1989 alongside his brother Hector. While on Condemned (Death Row) status, he used female facilitators and smuggled in cell phones to help control the outside areas under his control. Many Mexican Mafia members are considered the leaders of their old neighborhood gang areas, collecting taxes on illegal activities, most notably drug dealing.
Ayala went on trial in 1989 for the three shooting deaths at A & Z Auto Repair off 43rd Street in southeastern San Diego. On April 26, 1985, the victims’ hands had been bound behind their backs as Ayala and his brother demanded $10,000. Three were shot to death, while a fourth was able to escape wounded.

In 2015, the US Supreme Court upheld his death penalty conviction for the execution-style slayings of the three men in an auto-shop robbery. The justices split 5-4 on the decision citing differing views on his jury being tainted by the dismissal of all black and Hispanic jurors during the selection process. When the defense objected, the judge heard the prosecutor’s reasons behind closed doors without the defense present, so as not to reveal the trial strategy. In looking at the record available in the case, the court agreed that the prosecution was able to offer reasonable arguments why the jurors were dismissed for reasons other than race.

In an aside opinion, Kennedy took the opportunity to express his concerns with the solitary confinement conditions in which many prisoners like Ayala are held and suggested that he would be open to hearing a case on the issue.

He said that if Ayala is in a typical solitary confinement situation, it is likely he “has been held for all or most of the past 20 years or more in a windowless cell no larger than a typical parking spot for 23 hours a day; and in the one hour when he leaves it, he likely is allowed little or no opportunity for conversation or interaction with anyone.”

Little did Justice Kennedy know, Ayala did not lack the ability to communicate with those on the outside.