LOS ANGELES – As part of a joint federal-state law enforcement action targeting the Rancho San Pedro street gang, authorities this morning unsealed two federal grand jury indictments that charge 14 members and associates of the gang with narcotics and firearms offenses.
The main federal indictment, which charges 13 defendants, outlines a narcotics trafficking conspiracy in which gang members and their associates allegedly distributed methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and opioids, while using violence and firearms to maintain their drug trafficking territory. The drugs – including up to one-pound quantities of methamphetamine – allegedly were often sold out of a hotel and two bars on Pacific Avenue in San Pedro.
During this morning’s takedown, four of the federal defendants were arrested. Seven other defendants were already in state custody, and federal prosecutors will seek to have them brought into federal court. Three defendants are fugitives. Another 10 members and associates of the gang were arrested this morning pursuant to local charges.
The narcotics trafficking indictment alleges that the Rancho San Pedro street gang operates under the control of the Mexican Mafia and often engaged in violence and intimidation in an effort to protect its territory. The gang collected “taxes” from drug transactions, and this money was funneled to three Mexican Mafia members who are currently serving lengthy sentences in state prisons for murder convictions.
The lead defendant in the drug trafficking indictment – 32-year-old Robert “Stretch” Messersmith – allegedly oversaw the day-to-day operations of the gang and communicated with the incarcerated Mexican Mafia members about gang business. Messersmith also directly participated in narcotics transactions, according to the indictment.
The indictment specifically accuses the defendants of participating in a series of narcotics transactions in 2017 and 2018, including a half-dozen sales involving 1 to 2 ounces of methamphetamine. The indictment also alleges several sales involving from one-half pound to one pound of methamphetamine.
Communications intercepted by law enforcement during the investigation link certain members of the gang to murders, attacks on rival gang members and the disciplining of fellow gang members, one of whom allegedly bragged on social media about engaging in gang-related violence.
During the investigation into the gang, law enforcement seized approximately 45 firearms, including semi-automatic rifles and handguns.
The narcotics-trafficking indictment contains 26 felony counts. All 13 defendants are charged in a conspiracy to possess and distribute controlled substances. Various defendants are charged with substantive narcotics-trafficking offenses, and three defendants are charged with being felons in possession of firearms. If they were to be convicted in the narcotics-trafficking conspiracy, all 13 defendants would face potential life sentences in federal prison.
The second federal indictment charges one member of Rancho San Pedro – gang shot caller Alexander Gallardo, 31 – with possessing ammunition after being convicted of a domestic violence offense, a charge that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.
The four defendants taken into federal custody this morning are expected to be arraigned on the indictments this afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.