A story today in the Daily Bulletin in the Inland Empire is interesting for what it dredges up about an episode in the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
Members of the tribe, each of which earns a ton of money from their casino, feel in with San Bernardino gang members and through them with the Mexican Mafia members in that area. Now it’s become a campaign issue, according to the story.
The Mexican Mafia prison gang remains the most fascinating criminal enterprise in California. It’s able to force street gang members to exact taxes from local drug dealers. When MM members began this system in the early 1990s, it amounted, and still does, to the first region-wide organized crime in the history of Southern California, which had been spared the Italian mafia and others.
Local gang members were ordered to do the bidding of the MM — also known as “Eme”, which is Spanish for the letter M — whose influence in the prison system is vast. Gang members hopped to it, for the most part. The revenue is shared among taxers, shotcallers and the mafioso from each areas of SoCal.
Today, years after its formation, the Eme taxation system is often as ingenius as the member in that area, which is to say sometimes enormously so, sometimes not at all.
In Huntington Park, the Eme member, doing life in Pelican Bay State Prison, ordered gang members to tax popsicle vendors and street drag-queen prostitutes, as well as drug dealers. One transgender told me recently they had to pay taxes to even live in the area, as the considered their presence a besmirching of the barrio’s rep.
Out in SB County, according to fed documents, the local Eme figured out that some members of the San Manuel Band were juicy sources of cash. In 2008, Sal “Toro” Hernandez, the Eme member from San Bernardino, was implicated in the whole thing. A DEA document, according to newspaper reports, said the Eme was extorting money from tribe members, who each reportedly earn $100,000 a month in revenue from their casino.
“Toro” Hernandez pleaded guilty as did his brother, Alfred. (Here’s a reprint of a Press Enterprise article on the case.)
Will be interesting to see how the campaign, and this issue within it, plays out.