From the daily archives: Thursday, March 25, 2010

By Mario Conde

San Diego State University began its search for a new Dean for the Imperial Valley campus and last Thursday students and staff evaluated its first candidate, Dr. William Rosa.

The first of three candidates introduced himself to the community having Rosa explaining his background and knowledge to become dean. Rosa is a Puerto Rico decent with a doctorate from the University of Ohio. Rosa obtained his Bachelors from the University of Puerto Rico and his Masters from Michigan State and taught Spanish and Italian. He is the current associate Dean of Humanities and Science of Montclair State University in New Jersey.

The selected candidate will replace Dr. Stephen Roeder who announced his retirement as Dean last year.

Rosa was asked about the current situation SDSU is facing with the lost of exchange student programs and losing 50% of its students recently. Asked how he will address this issue, Rosa said that maybe a market analysis of why they are not getting students and see if the reason is that the community is changing; if they need to update some programs or see they are not really valued by the main campus. He also said that he would be forceful in communicating with the main campus in San Diego.

“We should make clear to San Diego that we are not other school and that we need that get the message across the mountains.” Rosa said.

Rosa added that SDSU should have a more active role in the community and have the people of the Imperial Valley support the University.  He also proposed to join with Imperial Valley College and have an open dialogue between the two institutions to improve the educational level in the valley. “We need to better define the link between both colleges and become productive partners.”

Rosa also stressed the need to re-structure the Dean’s Advisory Board and have people that are experts in the area be in charge of the decisions that affect the college. He also proposed that a student’s advisory board be created to work directly with the Dean.

Students and staff will continue to evaluate two other candidates which are Martha Crunkleton and David Pearson.

 

By Mario Conde

Councilman Guillermo Hermosillo will seek to be elected to a four year term after being appointed last year to the Calexico City Council.

A long time businessman and a father of three is now looking forward in welcoming his fourth child next month and also to be elected to the City Council this summer. Hermosillo ran for City Council four years ago for the first time and ended in a strong third place just behind candidate Luis Castro who was elected to Council two years later.

After four years of preparation by being chairman and commissionaire of the Calexico Planning Commission and director of the Calexico Chamber of Commerce, combined with more of twenty years of experience in the local business, he now feels ready to take the next step and do the right things to make Calexico a better City, he said.

Hermosillo focuses his campaign platform in making sure to bring new retail and industrial jobs to Calexico, the improvements of parks and recreation, and increasing the number of ambulances in the City.

“Calexico is a great City to live in and we can make it better. We can make parks nice for the public, kids, and the community. Somehow we can make Calexico a destination point to where people can stop and come here for a few days.” Hermosillo said.

“We need strip malls, we need outlets, and Calexico has the potential for all that we need businesses that can generate sales tax for our general fund so we can provide quality services to the population.”

In the public safety issue, Hermosillo believes the City should have more ambulances but said the City needs work to have more sales and property tax revenue to make it happen. He said that this will not be done overnight but the City should work on it.

A resident of Calexico since 1992, Hermosillo believes he is the right candidate to move forward Calexico politics into a new direction were people can respect Calexico.

“I’m a different type of politician and I think we can work together to make Calexico a better place and when people say “Only in Calexico” into a positive phrase.” Hermosillo said.

 

El Centro, Calif.-In a “fatal blow” to one of the most extensive, organized and violent extortion and drug trafficking operations in Imperial County history, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the successful prosecution of all 31 members of a Mexican Mafia cell.

Early this week, the leader of the cell, Patrick Ralph Ponce, 44, of Imperial County, pleaded guilty to drug, weapon, kidnapping and extortion charges, making him the last of 31 gang members to plead guilty to charges brought by Brown’s office. The final conviction concludes “Operation Gangland,” which began in 2005 and ultimately shut down a major Mexican Mafia cell spread across Imperial and San Diego Counties.

“This Mexican Mafia cell was one of the most violent extortion and drug trafficking rings California’s border region has ever seen,” Brown said. “With the convictions of all 31 gang members, we’ve dealt a fatal blow to their criminal enterprise and they will spend a long, long time in prison.”

Originally indicted in August 2007, the gang members have collectively been sentenced to more than 200 years in prison.

In 2005, officials from the California Attorney General’s Office, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office formed the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force to investigate the Mexican Mafia’s criminal activities.

The investigation uncovered a widespread drug smuggling and extortion operation directed by Mexican Mafia cell leader Patrick Ponce. The cell used “tax collectors” in El Centro, Calexico, Brawley, Heber, Holtville, Calipatria, and Niland to extort funds from anyone engaged in illegal activity, such as drug sales or immigrant smuggling. Those who refused or failed to pay were attacked by Ponce’s enforcers. The “taxes” would be split between the gang member who collected them, Ponce and other gang leaders.

Additionally, Ponce ran a heroin and methamphetamine trafficking operation, distributing and selling narcotics throughout the region. Ponce ordered gang members with outstanding warrants to surrender themselves to officers so that illegal contraband hidden on these individuals could be smuggled into the Imperial County Jail. Gang members attacked anyone who failed to carry out orders.

Over the course of the investigation, agents captured Ponce on wiretaps ordering assaults, setting extortion rates and arranging drug sales.

Following the investigation, Brown’s office assisted Imperial County District Attorney Gilbert G. Otero in preparing the case against the gang. In August 2007, the case was presented to the San Diego County criminal grand jury, which returned a 46-count indictment against 31 members of the cell. Over the past two and a half years, Brown’s office has successfully prosecuted all 31 gang members, including:

– Patrick Ralph Ponce (“Pato”), 44, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to kidnapping; two counts of extortion; selling methamphetamine; and supplying a firearm to a felon and is expected to be sentenced to 22 years in state prison;
– Marc Anthony Villasenor (“Joker”), 31, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to assault likely to cause great bodily injury; selling heroin; and assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 20 years, 8 months in state prison;
– Raul Antonio Cruz, Jr. (“Jr.”), 33, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to assault with a firearm; three counts of extortion; and three counts of supplying a firearm to a felon and was sentenced to 16 years in state prison;
– Ezequiel Ernesto Rodriguez (“Neto”), 39, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to extortion and admitted carrying a firearm during a gang crime and was sentenced to 15 years in state prison;
– Victorianao Ortiz (“Cyco”), 30, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to 14 years in state prison;
– Raul Vega Mejia (“Pollo”), 37, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted extortion; two counts of extortion; carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle; and being a felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 13 years in state prison;
– Gabriel Anthony Valles (“Guero”), 47, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and admitted carrying a firearm during a gang crime and was sentenced to 9 years in state prison;
– Marco Araujo, 54, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell heroin and three counts of selling heroin and was sentenced to 9 years in state prison;
– Juan Antonio Hornback (“Duke”), 31, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to selling heroin and was sentenced to 9 years in state prison;
– Jose Manuel Zepeda, 31, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion and extortion and was sentenced to 9 years in state prison;
– Victor Ruby (“Outlaw”), 38, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to assault likely to cause great bodily injury and was sentenced to 8 years in state prison;
– David Paez Martinez (“Deebo”), 32, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to extortion; two counts of attempted extortion; assault with a firearm; and felon in possession of a firearm and was sentenced to 7 years in state prison;
– Luis Hector Munoz (“Clepto”), 30, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion and extortion and was sentenced to 7 years in state prison;
– Gerardo Robles (“Gerry”), 29, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell heroin and selling heroin and was sentenced to 7 years in state prison;
– Jose Espinoza (“Chuck”), 26, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to extortion; receiving stolen property and possession of an assault weapon and was sentenced to 6 years, 4 months in state prison;
– Jaime Alejandro Perez (“Beef”), 26, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to attempted extortion and is expected to be sentenced to 6 years in state prison;
– Jorge Cuevas Mendoza (“Twinx”), 25, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell heroin and was sentenced to 5 years in state prison;
– Antonio Padilla (“Kasper”), 34, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell heroin and was sentenced to 4 years in state prison;
– Refugio Castellanos Servin, 43, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to selling heroin and was sentenced to 4 years in state prison;
– Manuel Estrada Solarez (“Chile”), 54, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to selling heroin and was sentenced to 4 years in state prison;
– Juan Cordero (“Pollo”), 31, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell heroin and was sentenced to 3 years in state prison;
– Max Ponce, Jr. (“Mad Max”), 53, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell heroin and was sentenced to 3 years in state prison;
– Anthony Edward Favela (“Shadow”), 37, of San Diego County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell heroin and was sentenced to 3 years in state prison;
– Judy Ann Huerta, 29, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell heroin and was sentenced to 3 years in state prison;
– Brian Mark Smith (“Dusty”), 34, of San Diego County, who pleaded guilty to supplying a firearm to a felon and was sentenced to 2 years in state prison;
– Joe Alberto Tamayo (“Drak”), 36, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to extortion and was sentenced to 2 years in state prison;
– Rudy Raymond Ferrel, Jr., 36, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to perjury and was sentenced to 2 years in state prison;
– Armando Salvador Leon (“Fooskie”), 49, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion and was sentenced to formal probation, 435 days jail;
– Eden Macias Portugal, 34, of Imperial County, who pleaded guilty to possession of heroin and was sentenced to summary probation, 355 days jail;
– Maricela Smith, 48, of San Diego County, who pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and was sentenced to formal probation, 234 days jail; and
– Ruby Flores Mendez, 35, of San Diego County, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell methamphetamine and is expected to be sentenced to formal probation.

Over the course of the investigation, agents also seized a large number of firearms, heroin and methamphetamine.

“I want to give special thanks to the members of Attorney General Brown’s San Diego office for all the hard work and effort expended to bring this case to a successful conclusion,” said Imperial County District Attorney Gilbert G. Otero. “This is just another example of what can be accomplished when federal, state and local law enforcement officers work together for the common good of the citizens of California.”

Other law enforcement agencies that assisted with the investigation included the El Centro Police Department, Imperial County Sheriff’s Office, Calexico Police Department, Brawley Police Department, Holtville Police Department, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Border Patrol, Imperial County Narcotic Task Force, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

A copy of the original 46-count indictment against the 31 gang members is attached.

 
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