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Long-enduring gang, Nuestra Familia, target of new state raids

Over the years cops have learned the hard way not to underestimate the mettle of the Nuestra Familia.

The 45-year-old Latino gang has survived major police takedowns by turning the criminal justice system on its head: The group’s headquarters is in a maximum-security California prison, while its foot soldiers come from a seemingly endless supply of street gang members, who follow the NF’s diktats out of respect and fear.

Screenshot from Xcalifas4 on YouTube

So it was probably prudent that state officials – from the governor and attorney general on down – avoided mentioning the NF when they announced a major gang sweep in Salinas, code named Operation Knockout.

Standing in a sea of law enforcement agents, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown kept to script. The raids, they explained, were targeting leaders from rival Sureno and Norteño street gangs. Police netted 37 alleged gang members, bringing the number of arrests to nearly 100 over the past few months.

But as reporter Julie Reynolds writes in the Monterey Herald, the raids are just part of a larger offensive to dismantle the NF.

The Nuestra Familia gang, which operates in and out of prisons, influences much of the criminal activity of thousands of Norteño gang members in Monterey and other California counties by ordering "hits" and demanding payments from drug sales, robberies and other gang crimes.

Norteño gang members, who police say number about 6,000 in Monterey County, act as street-level soldiers for prison-based Nuestra Familia, which operates as the "parent company" of the Norteños.

State gang experts credit the Nuestra Familia with about 1,000 killings since it began in the late 1960s, with Norteño gang members claiming hundreds more lives.

State and federal law enforcement officials chose Salinas for the raids because for years the city has been known as a hub of Nuestra Familia's activity.

In addition to murder and drug dealing (often ordered from prison), the NF has been involved in more complex financial crimes. One of the group’s most memorable exploits was the creation of a violent rap CD called Generations of United Nortenos.

Some years ago, Julie Reynolds and I interviewed the CD’s self-proclaimed mastermind. Former NF captain Robert “Huerito” Gratton recalled concocting the idea for the CD while locked down with other NF leaders at Pelican Bay State Prison’s notorious Security Housing Unit.

Gratton told us his aim was to enhance the NF’s status among street gang members, inspire hatred toward Surenos and launder drug profits. Upon release, he approached several East Bay musicians and put the plan into action.

It worked, for a while anyway. Then police caught on and arrested the CD’s producers.

Gratton left the gang and agreed to cooperate with authorities. We met up in Las Vegas, where he was speaking at a police convention.

Here’s an excerpt from our interview and a sampling of the NF-inspired CD.

Filed under: Public Safety, Daily Report
Tags: gangs

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Evening Dresses's picture
Some years ago, Julie Reynolds and I interviewed the CD’s self-proclaimed mastermind. Former NF captain Robert “Huerito” Gratton recalled concocting the idea for the CD while locked down with other NF leaders at Pelican Bay State Prison’s notorious Security Housing Unit.
ink109's picture
I interviewed the CD’s self-proclaimed mastermind. stock market today stock market today

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