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Gang member is sentenced for drug running operation

Prescription drugs (35779)
Prescription drugs

A San Fernando Valley gang member who helped run drug trafficking operations has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for federal racketeering and narcotics crimes.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Mark Anthony Espinosa, 43, of Lancaster, was sentenced on Nov. 1 in Los Angeles federal court.

Espinosa pleaded guilty in April to one count each of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and conspiracy to distribute drugs, including methamphetamine, according to the DOJ.

Court documents show that from November 2015 to November 2019, Espinosa conspired with other members of the Vineland Boys to sell drugs throughout the gang’s “territory.” He also acted as a drug supplier and operated drug and firearms stash locations, and enforced the gang’s extortion of drug dealers, including through violence, prosecutors said.

In his plea agreement, Espinosa admitted to committing a series of criminal activities, including a March 2016 meeting in which he discussed an incident in which he and another gang member held a gun to the head of an individual in a back-alley confrontation.

Espinosa also admitted to engaging in a drug deal in June 2016, in which he and a co-defendant sold about 112 grams of methamphetamine to a buyer who paid $700, the DOJ said.

In 2019, a federal grand jury indicted 31 members and associates of the gang. So far, federal prosecutors have secured 29 convictions, including 14 convictions that have resulted in prison sentences of at least 10 years. One of the men, Jesus Gonzalez Jr., 29, of Sun Valley, is serving a 31-year federal prison sentence for committing multiple felonies, including the attempted murders of three rivals.

The case’s lead defendant, Mario Alberto Miranda, 31, of Sherman Oaks, an alleged shot caller of the gang, and Ulises Botello, 46, of Palmdale, are scheduled to go to trial in October 2023 in downtown Los Angeles on federal racketeering conspiracy and narcotics charges.