Contra Costa: Two Year Operation Results In Arrests In Murder, Gun, Drug Cases

September 15, 2020 16:04 pm · 53 comments

A two-year-long operation by an FBI task force has resulted in the arrests of 11 street gang members in connection with the killings of four people, and 15 others face federal charges on various drug and weapons trafficking felonies in Concord and other parts of Contra Costa County, federal and county officials said Tuesday.

The arrests come after an investigation led by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Concord Police Department and federal Drug Enforcement Administration, as part of the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force.

The investigations centered on Sureno street gang activity centered on Concord’s Monument Boulevard corridor.

The FBI task force’s two-year Operation Boulevard Blues culminated in a major operation last Thursday resulting in 31 arrests coming from a total of 34 search warrants across Contra Costa County.

The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that Michael Valdez, 24; Andrew Cervantes, 25; and Daniel Rodriguez, 29, have each been charged with two counts of murder and one count each of conspiracy and street gang conspiracy in the killing of Marcos Villazon on Nov. 21, 2015, and of Luis Estrada on Nov. 30, shot twice in the head with a .40 caliber handgun — allegedly by Valdez, according to the complaint — at Hillcrest Park in Concord.

The complaint said Estrada had spoken earlier to police about an unspecified matter, and that Rodriguez and Valdez had seen the resulting police report.

Separately, Rafael Arturo Lopez, 31, and Juan Barocio Jr., 27, both face one count each of murder, conspiracy and street gang conspiracy in the April 17, 2014 killing of Victor Gutierrez, descibed as a Norteno gang member in the criminal complaint, as he walked along Adelaide Street in Concord.

And in the third murder case, Antonio Mendez Gonzalez, 26; Aurelio Mendez, 24; Jose Ignacio Ochoa, 25; Marcos Antonio Ochoa, 26; Jose Cisneros-Naranjo, Jr., 23, and Luis Manuel Cruz, 24, face one count each of murder, conspiracy and street gang conspiracy in the Sept. 12, 2015 shooting death of Erick Cruz at an apartment on Meadow Lane in Concord.

According to the federal complaint, also announced Tuesday, the alleged drug and weapons sales occurred across Contra Costa County, but primarily in Concord, with numerous transactions occurring in a shopping center parking lot at 1500 Monument Blvd.

According to the complaint, Sureno gang members had “claimed control over this shopping center,” referring to it as “The Block” or “The Box.” Gang members described the center to undercover officers as a kind of “one-stop shop” for guns and drugs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.

Of the 15 federal suspects, ranging in age from 18 to 42, 13 are in custody, and two were still being sought, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A total of 42 firearms were recovered at the various search warrant

“Throughout this investigation, ATF has worked side by side with our partners to fulfill ATF’s mission of protecting the public by investigating the criminal misuse and trafficking of firearms in the Contra Costa County area,” said Special Agent in Charge Patrick Gorman, San Francisco Field Division, ATF, in a statement Tuesday. “In April 2019, ATF began working with the Concord Police Department and then with other agencies to address problematic gang activity that was occurring within Contra Costa County.”

Added U.S. Attorney David Anderson, “(Tuesday’s) charges explode the myth of the non-violent drug dealer. Where we find drugs, we almost always find guns. What is particularly appalling about these charges is that the defendants did not even bother to hide the guns or drugs. Rather, the defendants allegedly peddled their products in broad daylight in public spaces.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of Northern California will prosecute the federal weapons and drug charges, while the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute the murder cases.

Noj September 15, 2020 at 4:18 PM

Thank you.

Lambie September 15, 2020 at 4:28 PM

Now itโ€™s time to start another FBI Operation ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ricardoh September 15, 2020 at 4:30 PM

Looks like there will be new apartments coming up for rent in the Monument corridor. Nice job.

Sam September 15, 2020 at 4:57 PM

Itโ€™s just one 1 br.

Mika September 15, 2020 at 5:15 PM

Nah. Their girlfriends/wives and children will stay

Badger September 15, 2020 at 7:13 PM

Like Sam said… one bedroom.

Snickerdad September 15, 2020 at 4:37 PM

Nice work by the FBI, ATF and our Concord PD.
Hopefully our super liberal DA doesn’t let those murderers off with a slap on the wrist.

Garbear September 15, 2020 at 7:20 PM

Most of them are federal warrants so it will have nothing to do with our district attorney. They will face charges in federal court not local

badmedia September 15, 2020 at 8:51 PM

The Feds will keep the ones that are citizens for a long time and throw the invaders back over the wall.

Original G September 15, 2020 at 4:44 PM

Concordโ€™s Monument Boulevard corridor.

Wasn’t that low income housing experiment from early 1970s

94519 September 15, 2020 at 4:47 PM

NOW can we say there is a gang problem in Concord?????

94521 September 15, 2020 at 6:04 PM

No, now you can say there WAS a gang problem in Concord!!!!!

Original G September 15, 2020 at 7:09 PM

That Void will be filled.

Sean925 September 16, 2020 at 4:17 PM

Lmfao a gang problem nothing happens in concord look at Pittsburgh Oakland Richmond alot of cases out of concord that are not fed cases are bs this county picks up bs cases with this New D.A in looks like she might be legit well see she’s still New in this county came from Santa Clara County where they over charge everybody

Dawg September 15, 2020 at 4:49 PM

Some of them will serve time, others will have their charges reduced and serve little to no time, and some will have their charges dropped. If any of them are in the country illegally, Concord will grant them sanctuary.
We can thank President Trump for going after the street gangs, and we can thank the Dems who will grant them sanctuary when they are released.

MH September 15, 2020 at 5:30 PM

So true! Sanctuary city! Back on the street to continue their gang activity.

ConcordKate September 15, 2020 at 5:30 PM

Dawg, can you please provide us with documentation that will confirm the City of Concord has the legal authority to grant sanctuary to accused killers/drug dealers? If that is a law on the books I’d like to know about it.

badmedia September 15, 2020 at 8:53 PM

The Federal Government will prosecute and there will be no mercy.

Sam September 15, 2020 at 4:58 PM

Good, now do the state government.

chuckie the troll September 15, 2020 at 5:07 PM

I foresee little chance that these men will be rehabilitated. Instead, they are likely to be a thorn in our side until someone else shoots them.

Mika September 15, 2020 at 5:11 PM

Good job, now letโ€™s hope the DA is successful in prosecuting them.

Concord74 September 15, 2020 at 5:25 PM

If Becton becomes the DA to prosecute these miscreants, the Task Force has just wasted time, money and risk of LEO lives. I hope they secure a legitimate DA for the case.
God forbid if Becton is going to run the show!!

Annon September 15, 2020 at 5:42 PM

Now come watch the pond on Boxer Blvd. Bust the rest of them…. You want guns, drugs, or anything else it’s there ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT. Too bad the Concord Police dept won’t do anything about it. I run here everyday and these guys are here non stop. Maybe one day… Sucks for the people who live there and the good people and kids who actually try and use the park for good. SAD!

Steve Crews September 15, 2020 at 5:47 PM

I run by the pond on Boxer blvd everyday, and I see the same group there every time. They sell drugs, do drugs, I’ve seen them pull guns on people before too. They are VERY obvious and do not care one bit. I feel really bad for the residents and good people and kids that want to use the park for good. Hopefully FBI and Concord PD will do something about this group. They’re ruining that neighborhood… Just sad!

Buck September 15, 2020 at 7:11 PM

Steve, if you are not initiating a citizenโ€™s arrest then you are part of the problem pal.

Yves Harlowe September 16, 2020 at 10:07 AM

Buck, should unarmed citizens try a citizenโ€™s arrest on armed gang bangers? Seems like a very bad idea unless you want to get shot. Calling the police when you see that activity seems smarter.

anon September 15, 2020 at 6:05 PM

No more Meadow 1000 block?

Newellian September 15, 2020 at 6:19 PM

How long before Becton turns them all loose, because they โ€œneededโ€ those funds? Donโ€™t hold your breath waiting to see these lowlifes prosecuted…

Darwin September 15, 2020 at 6:40 PM

And the Democrats want to defund the police??? Brilliant

No Excuses September 15, 2020 at 6:44 PM

“…Estrada had spoken earlier to police about an unspecified matter, and that Rodriguez and Valdez had seen the resulting police report.”

So, did loose lips get Estrada killed? Is it routine for police reports, including the identification of the informant, to be shown around? There’s a 5 year old stench still in the air on this one.

Anon September 15, 2020 at 10:19 PM

My thoughts exactly.

badge1104 September 15, 2020 at 6:56 PM

I just wonder how many are illegal aliens? And it’s ashamed to know the nun would be deported with our current crazy Democrat run system.

nytemuvr September 15, 2020 at 7:58 PM

@badge1104…You want to deport Sally Field?…Was she flying without a license? WTH?

Bob September 15, 2020 at 7:39 PM

Let this be a word of warning if you are open about your gun use and drug dealing after about 5 or 6 years you’ll get caught.

Bob Foo September 15, 2020 at 8:17 PM

These murders happen five years ago… That makes most of these guys teenagers at the times of their crimes. It’s really sad to think about. I feel like so many young men are manipulated into believing in this lifestyle, and they end up murdering people as a teenager when they really don’t have the brain power to understand the consequences on their life.

I’m glad the loved ones of the victims are finally able to see justice after so much time. I hope that these young men will understand what they did and how it was wrong.

Yo September 16, 2020 at 1:27 AM

Yet people still want to be in a gang. Hope this hits home for some so that they can make better life decisions.

burnbabyburn September 16, 2020 at 5:56 AM

When do the protests start? Led by Mr. Monument, Councilman Ed Birsan.

Sam Malone September 16, 2020 at 8:22 AM

Becton only did this because of the 3 other DA’s who are pushing to reduce jail time and fines for crimes committed by the entitlement crowd plus they hate law enforcement.

This is another once of the Democratic, socialist crowd and I am totally sick of this.

Totally against this. We are continuing to go in the wrong direction once again.

I am not a racist. There are good and bad people of every race and origin. Stop pandering to those who suck the system dry.

Kirkwood September 16, 2020 at 9:56 AM

But…but…Concord doesn’t have gang activity. Just ask Lars.

Ricardoh September 16, 2020 at 10:25 AM

The right to assemble does not mean you are free to join a gang that sells drugs or that is involved with any felonious activity. Gang members should be arrested for being in a gang that breaks any law. If gangs are not eliminated they will eventually through bribes and blackmail become as strong as they are in Mexico where the government can no longer control them. As in this case in Concord if this arrested gang left a void it is already being filled by the same or worse. We just do not take this problem serious enough.

Randy September 16, 2020 at 11:06 AM

Please Note: Users who use multiple names will be deleted. Please choose one name so others can easily chat with you.

Kentucky Derby September 16, 2020 at 11:08 AM

Concord has had a gang problem in the Monument area a lot longer than 10 years. Since the mid to late 90s.

Ricardoh September 16, 2020 at 11:21 AM
Gittyup September 16, 2020 at 12:44 PM

Oh, yes! And, a minimum monthly income of say $800 so they won’t have to turn to crime to survive. All the social work necessary to make them upstanding legal citizens of the country including attorneys, ACLU representation, free college education, a seat on the board of major corporations to satisfy diversity and bring about “social justice.” Heck, why not a seat in Congress just for the asking? Their little group of friends need representation, too.

The Mamba September 16, 2020 at 1:17 PM

Oh cool, we go bowling there once in a while, Concord is the best.

Lars Anderson September 16, 2020 at 2:47 PM

How many of these arrested gang members live in Concord? Where the guns confiscated at residences in Concord? Or were these Norteno’s just occasional visitors to Concord? These are questions I have after reading this press release.
The reason I mention this is because the previous PD Chief in Concord – Swanger – would often claim Concord was gang infested, but he would not back this up with facts. i myself have never seen any Crips, Bloods, Hell Angels, Banditos in concord. Concord, to my knowledge, doesn’t even have a single biker bar.
When an officer would pull over somebody in Concord on their way to East or West County – and they would find dope and guns – Swanger would start waving the bloody shirt on gangs, he would claim Concord was infested with gangs (a claim that drives down house prices)
Swanger liked to do these press conferences right around budget time, this happened many times when Swanger was PD Chief. He would appear before the council and dramatically raise the specter of a looming gang problem.
I believe a good investigative reporter could probably discover these arrested gang members had scant ties to Concord. What gang member would set up shop in Concord? Our city is crawling with PD officers, I see 5 or 6 police units rolling by every time I go out and walk my dog.
There is little evidence Concord is a hotbed of gang activity, and we have had historically very little serious crime in Concord. If the PD is making this claim – that Concord has a serious gang problem, they need to be more specific, I think.

Uknowit September 16, 2020 at 3:11 PM

So is this the kind of work some want to defund? Wonder how many had permits for these weapons? Great job Concord PD and all involved!

Andy September 16, 2020 at 10:28 PM

It was the fbi not concord pd. This is a federal case. Theyโ€™re going to jail for a long time. No more ignorance please. Love this site for info but the ignorance of these comments make it too much.

Chicken Little September 17, 2020 at 9:53 AM

Actually, the article says ATF has been working with Concord PD on this since 2019.

Ilovepopcorn September 17, 2020 at 7:33 AM

Well said Andy. That is usually the case. Ignorance prevails unfortunately.
I am thankful all the authorities developed a plan and were able to get these violent criminals in jail. Too many guns too out and about is still unsettling to me.

The Truth September 18, 2020 at 10:45 AM

This is small news. Small amount of Guns, and honestly 1 person with a rifle usually has about 7 other guns per average.

These are cheaper guns too.

This Void was and will always be filled. Guns something men usually obtain before even having a car, it’s a right of passage.

FBI has weak technology, they don’t even fly those planes that can fly over the house at night and detect weapons.

FBI is low level investigations.

nytemuvr September 18, 2020 at 11:57 AM

@The Truth….Then who are in the silent black helicopters that fly over us all the time? They’re usually in groups of three and erase your memory after they pass over.

Regi September 18, 2020 at 2:04 PM

Now when are you going to solve Arturo’s murder.?
Across the street from KFC on Monument Blvd.
You already know who did it.

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