Four members of the Nuestra Familia gang were sentenced to prison today—including a life sentence for one senior gang member—for participating in a variety of violent criminal acts, including racketeering conspiracy, murder, robbery and conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and other related offenses.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch of the Northern District of California and Special Agent in Charge John Bennett of the FBI’s San Francisco Division made the announcement.
“Criminal enterprises like the Nuestra Familia may spawn in prisons, but they often spread into our communities and onto our streets, bringing violence and mayhem with them,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “We will continue to target these criminal organizations, dismantle their leadership, and return the violent offenders to prison.”
“Today, four additional members of the Nuestra Familia gang were sentenced for the heinous crimes they perpetrated upon our community, bringing to 12 the number of defendants sentenced as a result of this investigation,” said U.S. Attorney Stretch. “Today’s sentences have a special significance in light of the court’s findings that three of the defendants were among the highest-ranked members of the organization internationally. The sentences reflect the egregious conduct of the defendants who lured and intimidated younger members of the community into being the next generation of gang members ready to accept a life of crime, drugs and violence. It is with gratitude and appreciation that we congratulate the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons and the scores of local law enforcement officials who have brought this six-year investigation to a successful conclusion.”
Alberto Larez, 48, aka Bird, of Salinas, California, was sentenced to life in prison plus 120 months in prison; Henry Cervantes, 52, aka Happy, of Lodi, California, was sentenced to 900 months in prison; Jaime Cervantes, 33, aka Hennessy, of San Mateo, California, was sentenced to 384 months in prison; and Andrew Cervantes, 60, aka Mad Dog, of Stockton, California, was sentenced to 432 months in prison. The four defendants were previously convicted of racketeering conspiracy and other offenses following trial before U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the Northern District of California in Oakland, California.
According to evidence presented at trial, Nuestra Familia is a prison gang that originally formed in the California state prison system in the 1960s. Nuestra Familia leaders control and direct the gang’s criminal activities both inside and outside of the prison system. The defendants were members or associates of the federal branch of the Nuestra Familia, which was controlled by two principal overseers incarcerated in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), including Andrew Cervantes, who is currently serving a 210-month sentence for a 1999 racketeering conviction. Larez and Henry Cervantes were senior gang members who reported to Andrew Cervantes. Larez recruited individuals, including Jaime Cervantes, to commit crimes on behalf of the gang and Henry Cervantes supervised the criminal activities of the gang in Oakland. In 2010, Henry Cervantes and Larez were released from the BOP after serving sentences for racketeering conspiracy convictions in 2004 involving the distribution of controlled substances on behalf of the Nuestra Familia.
Evidence presented at trial established that from approximately fall 2010 through March 2013, under the supervision of Henry Cervantes and Larez, members and associates of Nuestra Familia engaged in the trafficking of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin and committed robberies to raise money for themselves and the gang. At the direction of Andrew Cervantes, Larez instructed his subordinates to send proceeds from their criminal activities to the commissary accounts of gang leaders incarcerated in several BOP facilities, including the account of Andrew Cervantes. Larez communicated with Andrew Cervantes primarily through prison phone calls and correspondence using coded language.
During trial, evidence was presented of the defendants’ involvement in several gang-related murders and attacks. In September 2011, Jaime Cervantes and another gang member burned the bodies of two murder victims in an apartment in Oakland based on orders from Henry Cervantes. In January 2012, Jaime Cervantes and two other gang members committed a home invasion robbery of a drug dealer. During the robbery, Jaime Cervantes beat one victim over the head with a baseball bat and another victim was shot. In August 2012, Larez and two other gang members traveled to San Jose, California, and lured another gang member suspected of cooperating with law enforcement to a “meeting,” where he was shot to death while sitting in his vehicle. In late 2012, while incarcerated at U.S. Penitentiary (USP) Lewisburg, in Pennsylvania, Andrew Cervantes ordered via coded letters the murder of an inmate at USP McCreary in Kentucky. In March 2013, the inmate—whom Andrew Cervantes believed had violated gang rules—was assaulted and stabbed by two Nuestra Familia inmates in the prison dining facility and survived.
Today’s sentencing marks the culmination of a six-year investigation and prosecution of Nuestra Familia, which resulted in the convictions of 12 members and associates of the gang. Eight co-defendants previously pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other offenses and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from eight to 15 years.
The FBI Oakland Resident Agency investigated the case with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of California, with assistance from the BOP. The Santa Clara County, California, District Attorney’s Office; Oakland Police Department; San Jose Police Department; Red Bluff, California, Police Department; Livermore, California, Police Department; Campbell, California, Police Department, Alameda County, California, Sheriff’s Office; Tehama County, California, District Attorney’s Office; and Tehama County Sheriff’s Office also assisted in the investigation.
Trial Attorney Robert S. Tully of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph M. Alioto and William Frentzen of the Northern District of California prosecuted the case.