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Saturday, 4 August 2012

An alleged member of a Nortenos-affiliated gang in South San Francisco pleaded not guilty in federal court in San Francisco Friday to charges of attempting to murder three U.S. agents

15:34 |

An alleged member of a Nortenos-affiliated gang in South San Francisco pleaded not guilty in federal court in San Francisco Friday to charges of attempting to murder three U.S. agents as they raided his home in Petaluma on May 3. Victor Flores, 20, entered the not-guilty plea at an arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Laporte. He is accused of shooting and wounding three U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents as they served warrants on his residence at about 4:30 a.m. on May 3. Defense attorneys have said in court documents that Flores lived in the house with his parents and younger brother. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Wednesday that the three agents are recovering. One has returned to full-time duty and the other two are continuing therapy, she said. The three counts of attempting to murder a federal agent and a fourth count of using a gun in a violent crime were lodged against Flores in a revised indictment issued by a U.S. grand jury on Tuesday. The new counts were added to existing charges in which Flores and 18 other people are accused of an array of gang-related crimes including racketeering and murder conspiracies. The previous charges were filed in an earlier version of the federal indictment on April 24. The indictment alleges the 19 defendants are members or associates of the 500 Block/C Street gang in South San Francisco. It says the group was originally two separate gangs that now function as a single association and that its members identify as Nortenos, defined as Northern Californians who are loyal to the Nuestra Familia prison gang. Four defendants, including Flores, are accused of murdering three young men perceived as rival gang members in South San Francisco on Dec. 22, 2010. Also accused of the murders are Joseph Ortiz, 22, of South San Francisco; Justin Whipple, 19, of San Bruno; and Benjamin Campos-Gonzalez, 21, of San Mateo. The indictment alleges that Ortiz, Flores, and Whipple shot at a total of seven people and killed three and wounded three others, while Campos-Gonzalez served as their driver. The four men could face possible death penalties if convicted of the murders, but prosecutors have not yet decided whether to seek death penalties. Sixteen of the defendants are accused of conspiring to racketeer, or to engage in a continuing criminal enterprise that allegedly included murder, attempted murder, drug trafficking and theft. The same 16 are also charged with conspiracy to commit murder and conspiracy to commit assault in aid of racketeering. The other three defendants face several charges including conspiracy to obstruct justice and impeding the investigation of the Dec. 22, 2010, murders. One defendant, Rodrigo Aguayo, 23, of San Mateo, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to the racketeering conspiracy charge. He is due to be sentenced by Illston on Nov. 2. No trial date has been set for the other defendants, and the case is now in an evidence-gathering stage.

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