OPERATION BLACK WIDOW WINDS DOWN
This week we saw the final installment of OPERATION BLACK WIDOW in NORCAL. Eight shot callers of the NUESTRA FAMILIA took a guilty plea to federal racketeering charges and will be spending time in the federal prison system far from California. Five of the Familianos got life sentences while three got 10-year terms.
The five who'll be spending life in a Federal penitentiary are Gerald "Cuete" Rubalcaba, James Morado, Cornelio "Comi" Tristan, Joseph Raymond "Pinky" Hernandez, and Tex "Terrible T" Hernandez. These Familianos could be considered the NF's board of directors and ran the organization's business from prison.
The three with 10-year sentences are Daniel "Stork" Perez, Alberto Larez, and Henry "Big Happy" Cervantes.
Like LA's Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Crime, Operation Black Widow in Norcal was a combined Federal and local LE venture that targeted the leadership of organized crime syndicates. And like LA's Task Force, the investigation and prosecution would not have happened wihout the cooperation of confidential informants. From the LE point of view, it's impossible to crack organized crime without snitches. In the case of Black Widow, the most prominent snitch was ROBERT GRATTON. In LA's Task Force, LE had Ernest "Chuco" Castro that got the ball rolling and resulted in three huge RICO cases.
While there are a lot of similarities between the Norcal and Socal cases, there are a number of distinct differences. In Socal, the "business" was conventional street-oriented crime like tax collection and murder. Up north, the NF showed a remarkable capacity to morph into legitimate and/or semi-legitimate operations.
Gratton, with Gerry Cuete's blessing and support, founded NORTH STAR RECORDS, a rap label that launched the career of NORTENO rap star, SIR DYNO. The first CD, G.U.N. (Generation of United Nortenos), was a huge hit and was even carried in the racks at Sam Goody's. North Star was then used to launder drug money. As a result, Gratton was putting $5,000 a month into the NF's bank account in Idaho.
Other quasi legal businesses owned or controlled by Norteno shot callers included auto customizing shops, nightclubs and tire stores. Life was sweet and money was pouring in. That is until Gratton was put in the hat for being a little too independent. He was becoming too visible to LE and the media, and the Mesa, NF's board of directors, decided to check him.
In the end, Gratton cashed in his chips and ratted out the entire organization.
With the shot callers now scattered throughout the Federal prison system, it will no longer be as easy for them to communicate with the street as it was in Pelican Bay. At least that's LE's contention.
It remains to be seen if this latest blow to the NF will create a leadership crisis and a power vacuum that the Eme will try to exploit.