SAN JOSE -- Flanked by a multijurisdictional group of law enforcement officials from agencies as big as the FBI and as small as the town of Los Gatos, District Attorney Jeff Rosen on Tuesday released details about the biggest gang case in county history.
Forty-eight alleged members and associates of the Nuestra Familia prison gang's street regiments were indicted last month by a Santa Clara County criminal grand jury on 77 felony charges, ranging from selling methamphetamine to murder.
The interagency investigation spanned a three-year period and is still continuing, Rosen said. One of the 48 men and women, Mario "Green Eyes" Soria, was arrested Tuesday morning. Nine suspects remain at large.
Rosen urged anyone with information about the fugitives to immediately call the police or Crime Stoppers at 408-947-STOP.
"This is not a citizens-arrest situation," Rosen cautioned. "This is a sophisticated, complex criminal organization that required a sophisticated, multifaceted law enforcement and prosecutorial response."
Nuestra Familia (Spanish for "Our Family") is a notoriously violent Hispanic prison gang that originated in the 1960s.
Rosen called the case a "significant blow" to the gang, which runs about 27 street-level gangs engaged in drug trafficking and violent crimes. He also noted that his office has continued the longtime practice of donating $50,000 a year in asset forfeiture funds to San Jose's gang prevention task force.
All 48 of the defendants, whose street names include "Nightmare" and "Lunatic," are charged with participating in a street gang. Of those, 34 also face charges of conspiring to sell meth.
Four are accused of the Aug. 13, 2012, fatal shooting of Martin Chacon, 38. They are Josef Ryan Oak, 24; Alberto Jose Larez, 44; Angel Martinez, 30; and Ruben Cruz, 21.
Chacon, an affiliated gang member, was shot in the back of the head while in the driver's seat of a car near Oakland Road and Charles Street in San Jose.
The indictment includes a laundry list of other charges against some of the defendants, including attempted murder, robberies, assault, making criminal threats, dissuading or attempting to dissuade a witness and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Members of the group robbed six San Jose banks, according to the indictment, using weapons ranging from fake bombs to real guns. Not content with just stealing from the banks, the document alleges they also held up individual tellers.
Eight of the 48 defendants have extensive criminal records, including previous serious or violent crimes that could qualify them as third-strikers punishable by at least 25 years to life. Nine of the defendants are women.
The fugitives still being sought are Juan "Rico" or "Juanito" Carrasco, Jose Luis "Looney" Garcia, Cristian Kantun, Valerie Bergara, David "Boots" Marquardt, Mathilde "Dreamer" Ramos, Alex "Smokey" Bettencourt, Sheila Franco and Brian Faultner.
The case is so large that one defense attorney quipped that the trial will have to be held at HP Pavilion. However, many of the individual cases are likely be resolved through plea deals, similar to a previous 30-plus-defendant case. Also, the case could be divided into smaller group trials.
The county remodeled a courtroom about three years ago to accommodate large trials. Currently, prosecutors are trying a seven-defendant gang case there.
Rosen said the next step as the case moves into the courts is to identify counsel for each defendant, a process that could take weeks and possibly months because there are so many accused.
San Jose's biggest gang trial ended in May 2011, when a jury found four Norteños guilty of a murderous rampage that took four lives and severely injured eight people. The nearly yearlong proceeding cost taxpayers more than $1 million -- and entailed so many charges the verdict took 95 minutes to read aloud.
Other law enforcement agencies involved in the Nuestra Familia case include the police departments of Campbell, San Jose, Gilroy, Santa Clara and Mountain View. Other participants include the Santa Clara County Special Enforcement Team, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office, the gang intelligence unit at the local jails, gang investigators at Corcoran and Salinas Valley state prisons, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Special Services Unit and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.