A powerful prison gang controlled its San Jose street regiment from behind bars, prosecutors allege, ordering hits and calling the shots by smuggling notes in body cavities of dutiful apparatchiks.
Those and other allegations surfaced in an indictment handed down earlier this month against two-dozen suspected Nuestra Familia leaders. The sweeping take-down, dubbed “Operation Red October” after the gang’s colors and the month of the raid, capped off a year-long undercover investigation by the FBI and local law enforcement.
The 24 suspects face dozens of charges ranging from conspiracy to smuggle drugs, weapons and cell phones into jail to attempted murder. Authorities say they listened in on gang members’ phone calls, seized thousands of dollars in cash, meth, guns and reams of coded gang communiques called “kites.” Some kites held detailed organizational charts, directions about what weapons to carry and deadlines for killing rivals.
Their trial date is set for April 13.
Most of the accused hail from San Jose, including six still on the lam: Cassey Klaur, 27; Sonya “Giggles” Rodriguez, 49; Karlee Ochoa, 25; Colleen Dunn, 51; Fred “Maton” Macias, 35; and Diego “Chucky” Mendoza, 25. Prosecutors say the cadre being charged filled a void left after an even bigger gang bust in 2013 indicted 48 Nuestra Familia associates on 77 charges, including drug dealing and murder.
One of the suspects, 28-year-old Stephen “Pnut” Barba, was convicted of stabbing San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith. He was sentenced and released on parole for that crime last year. Another, 17-year-old Fidadelfo “Lil Sav” Ortiz, was already facing prosecution for allegedly shooting to death a 37-year-old San Jose man in a road rage incident.