They’re All Around You: 5 Reasons You Should Fear the Mexican Mafia

Mexican Mafia
Getty Images/Bob Chamberlin

The Mexican Mafia, or “La EME,” is a U.S.-based gang made up primarily of Mexican-American street gang members. The Mexican Mafia should not be confused with illegal alien drug gangs that originate from Mexico or with the Mexican cartels that use the gang as U.S. foot soldiers. Though it originated as a prison gang, its members and operations have since spilled out into U.S. communities.

The Mexican Mafia was formed in California in 1957 for the purpose of controlling the daily criminal activities within correctional facilities by means of fear, intimidation, and violence, while providing its members protection, prestige, and providing its leadership a steady flow of income.

The Mexican Mafia is a multi-generational gang that recruits its members from traditional Mexican-American barrio street gangs. They primarily recruit the most violent, or those street gang members who have the potential to generate a generous cash flow for Mexican Mafia leadership. This cash flow is usually from the result of criminal activity such as narcotics trafficking, or from being the enforcers for debt collecting, extortion by taxing, or murder-for-hire.

Around 1974, the Mexican Mafia spread to the Arizona State Prison in Florence, Arizona. Over the years, splits occurred within the mafia in Arizona and at the current time it is known as the Arizona Mexican Mafia. In 1984, the Texas version of the Mexican Mafia was founded in San Antonio, Texas;this group is also known as “Mexikanemi” or “La EME.”

Here are five reasons why the Mexican Mafia should be feared:

1. The Mexican Mafia will not hesitate to put out green lights, or hits, on U.S. law enforcement personnel or regular citizens who stand up to the gang.

They have put out green lights on U.S. investigators who were part of special task forces investigating them. These targets also included prosecutors and corrections personnel. In the late 90s in Phoenix, Arizona, a plot was uncovered in which three New Mexican Mafia Members were plotting to have the Arizona Prison Director murdered over his “get tough” policies against them, within the correctional facilities.

In San Antonio, Texas, the Texas Mexican Mafia carried out an execution of a small town police officer who had turned bad, this crooked cop had been selling drugs for the Mafia.

2. The Mexican Mafia is classified a security threat group (STG) in Arizona and California and as a Tier 1 gang in Texas, due to their propensity for violence and organizational structure within the prison system.

This classification requires special precautions to be used in dealing with its members due to the violence they have used against other inmates and corrections officers. Their criminal activity once they are released from a prison requires local and federal police as well as parole personnel to track them due to the threat potential they pose to the regular population.

3. The Mexican Mafia is used by Mexican cartels to sell drugs, firearms, engage in money laundering, and to carry out hits or assassinations against rivals on U.S. soil.

This link was first established by a major investigation in 2011 in Los Angeles county when a merger occurred between the Mexican Mafia and the Mexican cartel La Familia Michoacana. La Familia was a major Mexican drug cartel based in the Mexican state of Michoacan. In Texas, the Mexican Mafia has a history of working with the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas and the Beltran Leyva cartels. According to gang investigators in Texas, the Mexican Mafia have carried out kidnappings and hits for Mexican cartels, primarily the Gulf, Zetas and Beltran Leyva cartels. Current intelligence trends indicate that the Mexican drug cartels are working with the Mexican Mafia much more frequently than in the past and the Mexican Mafia is now using illegal alien criminals as associates to carry out their criminal activities.

4. The are all around you and use secret “mafia loyalists” to assist with their criminal activities.

These loyalists will be family members, defense lawyers, school teachers, police, court and MVD (Motor Vehicle Division) administrative employees, as well as police and correctional officers who have been compromised.

The work that these individuals carry out are primarily with the help in facilitating communications with those mafia members locked up and those on the outside. The loyalists will also assist in illicit money transactions and transfers that benefit the mafia membership allowing them to continue with their violent activities.

5. The Mexican Mafia uses fear and intimidation to silence witnesses and victims which allow them to operate in their illicit activities.

Police investigators and prosecutors have an extremely difficult time in successfully prosecuting Mexican Mafia cases due to the reluctance of citizens speaking out against their criminal activities.

Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.)

(Disclosure: Arce previously worked on and led investigations into the Mexican Mafia during his career in law enforcement. His work led to the prosecutions and incarceration of numerous Mexican Mafia members — many of whom are still behind prison bars.)


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