Sac’s meth ‘tax’

New organized crime prosecution comes as gun and drug cases are escalating in California, nationally

Two alleged gang members in Sacramento were recently indicted for trafficking methamphetamine in connection with an interstate drug ring. One also allegedly funneled money to organized crime inside the state prison system.

In June, a federal grand jury handed down indictments for 35-year-old Manuel Reyes and 35-year-old Elton Padilla. According to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Russell Custer, Armando Garcia—known on the streets as “Thien Quach”—used Reyes and Padilla to move sizable quantities of meth from Los Angeles to Sacramento.

“Reyes is cousins with Garcia,” Custer wrote in court filings. “Reyes is a suspected Howe Park Sureno gang member and Mexican Mafia associate.”

The agent added that Padilla is also believed to be a Howe Park gangster.

Custer indicated Reyes and Padilla were charging a $100 “tax” for the Mexican Mafia on every $400 worth of meth they sold around the capital city.

Announcing a broader racketeering and criminal conspiracy case against the Mexican Mafia, U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said the organization controlled a number of street gangs in California and were responsible, most recently, for trafficking narcotics and extortion within the Los Angeles County jail system.

Prosecutors in the Sacramento case say the FBI used surveillance teams, confidential informants and cellphone data to follow Reyes and Paddilla as they made numerous meth sales, including at the parking lot of the Home Depot on Howe Avenue and in front of the AM/PM on El Camino Avenue.

Around the same time, in the fall of 2018, Reyes and Padilla’s alleged associate Erick Stephen Perez was arrested for allegedly transporting narcotics through Glen County while carrying a stolen 9-millimeter Glock. The 32-year-old Perez now faces felony gun charges.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration recently told SN&R that, in 2018, it experienced a 500-pound jump in methamphetamine seizures in Northern California from the previous year. While meth trafficking is up regionally, federal gun charges like the ones just leveled at Perez’s are at a national five-year high. That information was released in a new study by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Clearinghouse.

“The estimate of fiscal year 2019 prosecutions of this type is up 68.7-percent [from 2014],” TRAC reported. “The lead investigative agency for weapons prosecutions through April 2019 was [the Bureau of] Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), accounting for 63.5-percent of prosecutions referred.”