Boxer Enriquez, the Mexican Mafia, LAPD – What’s the problem?

There’s been a dust-up recently over a meeting that LAPD investigators held with Rene “Boxer” Enriquez, a former influential member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, in which he explained to them the inner workings of his former crime pals.

The mayor is criticizing the meeting, questioning why it was held. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has called for a review of the decision to hold it.9780061257308_p0_v1_s260x420 LA Police Commission President Steve Soboroff has called for an investigation into the meeting. Soboroff called the meeting a “giant waste of resources” and “very very misconceived.”

I don’t know what happened at that meeting, but if it was anything like the kind of law-enforcement seminar Enriquez has given dozens of times in the past, then Soboroff need to reassess that opinion.

What is the problem here?

Why would you not want a former Mexican Mafia member to be educating police brass on the workings of one of the most influential, and little-known, institutions in Southern California life today?

Boxer has made a second career (behind bars – he’s serving life in prison) of teaching law enforcement about how his old mates work. I’ve interviewed him extensively. That’s what he does, and, an articulate fellow, he does it pretty well.  (He’s co-author, with local TV reporter Chris Blatchford, of the book, The Black Hand, released in 2009.)

Far from being a “giant waste,” this seems to me to be essential work. The Mexican Mafia is one of the most important institutions in Southern California, particularly in communities with large Latino populations and gang problems.

The Eme used to be just a prison gang. But two decades ago, it marshaled the forces of street gang members to tax drug dealers in their areas, and sometimes also fruit vendors, bars, prostitutes and others – and funnel the proceeds to Eme members, their families and associates.

With that, it became Southern California’s first regional organized crime syndicate.

It’s probably less than that description implies, as it’s run by drug addicts locked away in maximum security prisons, who use drug addicts and criminals as their go-betweens. The miscommunication can be monumental. Still, the mafia has changed life in many parts of this region.

In some SoCal towns, its members are more important than the mayor, with enormous impact on town budgets. Its members can create – have created – crime waves with simple orders to associates who pass them along to gangsters on the street. The Eme has been shown to have alliances with Mexican cartels.

Sounds to me like anyone willing shed light on an organization like that ought to be welcome.

By the way, I contend that Enriquez’s decision to drop out while he was in solitary confinement in Pelican Bay in 2001 was a crucial moment in state prison history, as it helped pave the way for the mass defection of gang members in prison.

It wasn’t the only factor pushing that along, but it was important because it showed the Eme’s soldiers and lieutenants that their higher-ups weren’t going stick with the program. Also, two other mafia members – Angel “Stump” Valencia and David “Chino” Delgadillo – quickly followed him into PC, with several others after that, including Boxer’s old Eme buddy, Jacko Padilla, who controlled the Azusa area.

Protective custody in state prison went from a few hundred to, today, tens of thousands of inmates on what are known euphemistically as Sensitive Needs Yards. Many of them are Southern California Latino gang members. All that picked up enormous momentum after Enriquez dropped out.


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3 Responses to Boxer Enriquez, the Mexican Mafia, LAPD – What’s the problem?

  1. Evan Maxwell

    I just came across Sam’s post and the entire flap about Boxer Enriquez. As a former LA Times reporter who tried in the 1970s to do the job Sam did so well in the last decade, I suffered a flashback that was almost psychedelic.

    I fail to understand the source of the angst expressed by Mayor Garcetti and by Police Commission President Soboroff. The danger that might have been posed by the appearance of a former Mexican Mafia shot-caller is no greater than the risk posed by a closed appearance by any controversial public figure.

    And like Sam, I think the subject is far more important than the politicians are willing to admit.

    I had the questionable pleasure of writing some of the first LA Times stories ever printed on the Mexican Mafia, Nuestra Familia and other prison gangs. I can claim no great scoops here; many of my stories dealt with events that were as much as a year old. But the Ol’ Grey Lady of Spring Street had not previously printed the news, in large part because it involved touchy political events in the Latino community, including the assassination of an operative of a prominent state senator from East Los Angeles. (Believe it or not, that story had not been deemed newsworthy when it occurred.)

    I suspect that Boxer’s straight-from-the-shoulder talk may have rustled the same skeletons in the same political closets. EME was as powerful and well-connected in 1970s Los Angeles as La Cosa Nostra was and still is in the East. And it was every bit as embarrassing to the Latino community as the Mafia was to hyper-sensitive Italians in the 1960s.

    Los Angeles has much more of an organized-crime history than is generally acknowledged. It took me years as a crime specialist to realize that the organs of power, including the dominant newspaper in LA, were less than enthusiastic about confronting the underworld, whether it be classic Mafia or EME/NF. I left Southern California 25 years ago but have stayed in touch to some extent, and it appears to me that recent events have forced some engagement with the realities that every urban area experiences.

    And very solid reporting by a few folks, like Sam Quinones, has helped to educate Angelenos. But I suspect, based on the flap last January, that there are still sensitivities that can be enraged by direct confrontation with the tangle of crime, power and politics in modern life.

    I burned out trying to teach the pig to sing and left newspapering in 1984. There are times I feel like I was a quitter; there are other times I realize that I was just irritating the pig, so to speak.

    But I would like to meet Boxer someday. I still have some questions I’d like to put to an insider.

    Evan Maxwell
    Gardnerville, NV


    He can tell you anything he wants, and you will believe it. Because we do not correct him. Doing so would give to much information. So therefore he uses his big words and blows smoke up your Ass.

  3. RTF372

    Boxer took a lousy deal. Doing life? Look at all of the mob guys from back east that get complete immunity. We were able to get the real dish on Cosa Nostra and the Outfit because former members were able to contribute to books and movies without fear of criminal prosecution. That’s why we have Goodfellas and Casino. Boxer should have just sat in protective custody and not said a word until they promised him a release date. Hopefully old Jerry Brown pardons him on his way out in a couple of years, or maybe even the president. He flipped on an organization that has targeted innocent blacks, for crying out loud. That’s gotta count for something.

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