SAN DIEGO — One of the largest prison gang takedowns in the North County concluded Wednesday with guilty verdicts against seven remaining gang members accused of participating in a drug and extortion ring that was run from behind bars.
A San Diego federal jury convicted all seven men of racketeering charges, and some were also found guilty of various other charges, from drug distribution to discharging a gun.
Pablo Franco, Jesus Barragan, Francisco Gutierrez, Julio Solorzano, Hector Fernandez, Jose Cornejo and Hector Garcia are members of the Mexican Mafia, a powerful, widespread prison gang engaged in murder, robbery, kidnapping and drug trafficking, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office indictment.
The jury deliberated for four days before reading the verdict about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The trial heard by U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez lasted 25 days.
Sentencing is set for later this month.
According to the indictment, the gang controls a large amount of drug dealing in the area, as well as collects taxes on Latino street gangs. The Mexican Mafia also metes out violent punishment when people don't pay up, authorities said.
Franco is considered a high-level associate who coordinated much of the prison gang's dealings around the county from his cell at Donovan prison.
Many of the others are known as "shot callers" of various street gangs, including those in Fallbrook, San Marcos and Escondido.
The men were arrested in January 2012 as part of a massive countywide gang sweep that targeted 119 people in three federal indictments.
Most of the defendants have pleaded guilty to various charges.
Rudy Espudo, who oversaw the gang's activities in North County, pleaded guilty in May and is awaiting sentencing.