SALINAS — Two members of the Nuestra Familia prison gang have been convicted of participating in multiple conspiracies to commit assault and murder inside the Monterey County Jail.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, a federal jury convicted Vincent Gerald Garcia and Jorge Jasso on Tuesday. The verdict follows a three-week jury trial before U.S. District Judge Beth Freeman. Garcia and Jasso are due to be sentenced on August 30. They will remain in custody until then.
At trial, Garcia and Jasso each faced three counts: participating in a racketeering conspiracy; participation in a conspiracy to commit murder for the benefit of racketeering; and engaging in a conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in support of racketeering. The jury convicted Garcia and Jasso on all counts.
According to evidence presented at trial, Garcia, 55, and Jasso, 29, were active members of the Nuestra Familia prison gang, as well as its affiliate Norteño street gang, from December 2012 to April 2014. Garcia was the commander of the Nuestra Familia regiment for Monterey County. Jasso was a Norteño member of Soledad.
Members of the Norteño gang pledge loyalty to Nuestra Familia. Inside jails and local jails, all Nuestra Familia members and associates worked together to maintain gang structure and rules through “moves”. The term “eviction” refers to a violent attack aimed at evicting (both from the gated housing unit and the gang itself) a gang member who has committed a serious violation of gang rules. A takedown is accomplished by having at least one “hitter” stabbing the target and followed immediately by an unarmed beating by at least two “bombers”. The blows inflicted maximum damage on the victim and caused a distraction that gave the hitters time to hide their weapons and wash up.
Trial evidence showed that the dismissals were approved in advance by the Norteño in charge of the facility after notification of the violations by members of the prison’s housing unit. The Norteño gang member in charge of the housing unit planned the move. All members of the Norteño housing unit were aware of the dismissal process and were expected to assist when requested.
Other evidence demonstrated that the sale of controlled substances both inside detention facilities and on the streets was a central source of income for the gang. Norteño members smuggled controlled substances into the Monterey County Jail as well as other prisons and sold the “hard” drugs to other inmates, but distributed marijuana only to fellow Norteños in prison.
Trial evidence focused on 10 evictions in the Monterey County Jail between December 2012 and April 2014. Most of the evictions took place in “K-Pod”, a cell block housing exclusively active Norteño members and associates . Three evictions took place in the main courtyard of the prison during the recess period for the inmates housed in the locking modules for Norteños.
Garcia was identified by the lawsuit as the chief responsible for approving the referrals. Garcia was a lifelong gang member who rose through the ranks to carnality of the Nuestra Familia prison gang in the 1990s. He later became the commander of the Nuestra Familia regiment in charge of Salinas and all of Monterey County from at least 2012 to 2014, prosecutors said. From May 2013 to February 2015, Garcia was incarcerated in the Monterey County Jail. Evidence showed he was in charge of the entire Nuestra Familia prison and ordered assaults and attempted murders. He retained ultimate authority and could place other gang members on “freeze” status, exonerate them for rule violations, strip them of gang or leadership roles, and elevate others to leadership positions. .
Jasso was held in the Monterey County Jail from May 2012 to September 2013. Evidence showed he was a Nuestra Familia infantryman who participated in attempted murders and assaults. He participated in the kidnapping of a member of the Norteño gang on December 2, 2012, playing the role of a suicide bomber after others stabbed the victim. Jasso was also involved in the kidnapping of a second victim on February 25, 2013, again acting as a suicide bomber after the victim was stabbed.
Garcia and Jasso were originally charged with 13 co-defendants on September 26, 2018. They are the last pending defendants in the case.
For their racketeering conspiracy conviction, Garcia and Jasso each face a maximum sentence of life in prison. Garcia and Jasso are also each facing a maximum of 10 years in prison for their convictions for conspiracy to commit racketeering murder and a maximum of three years for their convictions for conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in the profit from racketeering. Additionally, each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000.
This lawsuit is the result of an FBI investigation with assistance from the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Salinas Police Department, Soledad Police Department and from the Fresno Police Department.