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Monday, 15 December 2008

Ruben "Nite Owl"Castro, 46, is a leader, or carnal, of the Mexican Mafia, also known as the "La Eme" prison gang.

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Ruben "Nite Owl"Castro, 46, is a leader, or carnal, of the Mexican Mafia, also known as the "La Eme" prison gang. Authorities say Castro controls two cliques of the 18th Street gang -- the Shatto Park Locos and the Hoover Locos. Castro is alleged to have run those gang cliques from a federal maximum-security prison in Colorado, where he is serving multiple life terms and was recently sentenced to an additional 27 years and three months for racketeering. Prosecutors say that from behind bars, Martinez, another La Eme carnal, allegedly made as much as $40,000 a month from criminal activity.Enriquez's childhood does not fit the Dickensian template one would expect from a sociopathic hit man. He grew up in a predominantly white suburban Cerritos neighborhood, in a home with two parents who had immigrated here from Mexico. His father, an ambitious, hard-working man who eventually owned a custom furniture factory and dabbled in commercial real estate, had his faults, but he clearly cared for his son and despaired deeply when he went astray. Enriquez quit school in the ninth grade and, along with his older brother, joined a street gang in nearby Artesia. After briefly working for his father, he quit, began slamming heroin and pulling holdups to pay for his habit. He was arrested after one bungled job and was soon tied to a host of others, because of their similar MOs as well as Enriquez's distinctive tattoos. He pleaded guilty to 21 counts of robbery and was sentenced to seven years in state prison. Legs chained, hands cuffed and wearing a red jumpsuit, he was loaded on the "Gray Goose" -- the prison bus -- and locked up at what was then known as Soledad State Prison. He was 18 years old.Shortly after arriving at Soledad, Enriquez and his cellmate spotted a member of Nuestra Familia (Spanish for "Our Family"), a prison gang from Northern California and a deadly La Eme rival. They beat him on the head with a shaving cream can and robbed him. A member of the Mexican Mafia sent him a few cigarettes and a note, welcoming him. He liked Enriquez's style. When Enriquez was transferred to another prison, two men approached him on the yard. They told him they wanted him and a young convict named "Puppet" to "do a hit" on "Angel," a Santa Monica gangbanger. They didn't tell him why and he didn't ask."Puppet grabbed Angel and Boxer just started stabbing him over and over until the untaped plastic handle slid up to cover the point of the shank and made it no longer effective," Blatchford writes. "That's the only thing that saved Angel's life . . . It was Boxer's first hit. 'It was then I knew I was on the path. I was being looked at [by Eme]. I was honored that I was picked for the mission and exhilarated by the immediate recognition I received on the yard as a 'big homeboy.' " He continued "putting in work," and was soon made a carnal, or leader. Eventually, he was released from prison but within a few years was sent back for life. He killed a rival carnal who was on a Mexican Mafia hit list and ordered the shooting of a female drug dealer. Enriquez was a shot-caller during many significant events in La Eme's history, such as when leaders in the early 1990s ordered a halt in drive-by shootings against other Latinos, and when they expanded the gang's reach and financial base by "taxing" drug dealers. One gangster Blatchford describes was sentenced to life for -- in a phrase that sums up the senselessness and inanity of the violence -- "murdering a murderer who had offended another murderer."The Mexican Mafia -- like its Italian counterpart -- is better at promulgating the myth of the brotherhood than generating actual loyalty. Enriquez's story reveals that, ultimately, La Eme members have four destinations. The lucky ones die in their cells. The others either get capped on the street, shanked in the yard, or they become snitches. Enriquez was no different. After a decade at Pelican Bay State Prison's secure housing unit, he is now in a witness protection program for cooperating inmates. Enriquez is hidden away at an unnamed prison, somewhere in the United States, to keep him away from the many carnales he testified against.

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