Saturday, October 02, 2004

The SILVER EAGLE MARKET in SACRAMENTO was apparently doing more than selling snacks and six packs. In a raid by narco cops pursuant to an undercover buy, Sacto cops found a gang of chronic and crack behind the counter all bagged up and ready for sale. They also found $370,000 in cash. When they raided the home of the owner, HIRENDRA SHARMA, they found an additional $40,000 in cash. Sharma wasn't home or at the store and is now a fugitive. I bet this guy didn't give a crap if you stood there and read the magazines all day long or boosted the occasional Litle Debbie.
In a story in today's LA TIMES, we get some more details on LA's anti-terror point man, JOHN MILLER and his remedial gun carrying problem. It appears that the gun Miller left in his carry-on luggage was NOT one of the guns on his carry permit. One important piece of information that the Times left out was that California carry permits will only allow the permit holder to list THREE guns on the permit. Some states have no restrictions on this point. You can carry any type of handgun that can be concealed. When the permit is issued, the Make, Model and serial number are typed righ on the permit by the folks on the 5th floor, LAPD's Gun Detail. And you can only carry what's on the permit.

What Miller had on his Bratton-issued permit were two .45 ACP Glocks and what the Times describes as a .38 caliber Beretta. We don't think Beretta makes a .38 caliber handgun. The .38 is a revolver round and Beretta does not produce revolvers. What the article probably meant to say that it was a .380, a entirely different type of round despite the similarity in nomenclature. Beretta does make handguns chambered for the diminutive .380 semi-auto cartridge.

The gun in question was apparently a Smith & Wesson chambered for the .38 caliber round, a revolver round. This gun was apparently issued to Miller by the LAPD. Or so the article says. We're wondering what the hell the LAPD is doing by issuing civilians handguns. From what we know of the law, police agencies do not issue guns to civilians, even if they're department employees.

If this is the case, then Miller was illegally carrying a loaded concealed weapon because according to the laws covering concealed carry, you can only carry one of the three guns spelled out on the permit itself.

If Miller had been a plain old civilian, chances are his permit would have been pulled immediately and he would probably never be issued another one. But he's not. He's in the privileged tier of the two-tiered system that governs concealed carry permits. Chances are, he'll keep his permit and get away with nothing more than a cool glance from his sponsor and friend, Chief Bratton.

Did Miller commit a crime? It sure looks like it. If not the crime of intentionally trying to carry a gun aboard an aircraft, then at least that of illegally carrying a loaded concealed weapon -- that S&W .38 that was NOT on his permit. We're looking forward to how this turns out.

Friday, October 01, 2004

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.
LAPD chief Bill Bratton is no longer a civilian. After studying and training for months, the Chief passed his P.O.S.T. tests and is now a sworn California peace officer and no longer needs his self-issued civilian permit to carry a concealed weapon. Lest you might think they bent the rules or made the tests easy to given Bratton his certification, former Chief Willie Williams never did pass the P.O.S.T. Williams tried four times and failed. LA cops no longer need to feel funny about saluting a civilian.

Monday, September 27, 2004

For out of town readers, the LA Daily News is publishing an 8-part series on street gangs. The first installment ran on Sunday. You can read it and the rest of the series at

So far, there's very little new information. At least new to us. Lots of stats and personal stories but not a whole lot of analysis or the kind of juicy stuff we like to read. We're curious to see if they run anything at all about the Wilson, Bowser, Hightower, Haggins etc. racially motivated homicides. The Times and DN have both done a great job of ignoring these killings and the motivation behind them.