SAN DIEGO – A high-ranking San Diego-based Mexican Mafia associate, who carried out a stabbing and took part in drug trafficking and extortion in support of the violent prison gang, was sentenced Friday to 14 years in federal prison.
Robert Mercado, 51, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to committing a violent crime in aid of racketeering.
He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia.
Mercado was one of three dozen people arrested last year as part of “Operation Carnalismo,” an investigation that targeted the Mexican Mafia’s organized crime activity.
“Operation Carnalismo” was one of three similarly timed investigations that focused on Mexican Mafia crime, resulting in more than 100 arrests of local gang members and associates.
“We will continue to work tirelessly in order to ensure that our neighborhoods remain safe from organized gang activity through the successful prosecutions of cases like this,” said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.
“Gang members must know that their actions have serious consequences under federal law.”
Court filings describe the Mexican Mafia as a notorious, violent prison gang that controls a large portion of the criminal activity committed by Southern California Hispanic street gang members.
The Mexican Mafia controls the criminal activity of its subsidiary gangs through the collection of proceeds from other crimes, such as drug trafficking.
The extortion payments, referred to as “taxes,” are collected for the benefit of members by gang associates.
Court filings show that Mercado was a trusted lieutenant to convicted Mexican Mafia member Salvador Colabella, who had several methamphetamine trafficking organizations under his command.
Mercado admitted stabbing a drug dealer — and twisting the knife in order to maximize the damage — because he believed the drug dealer was not properly paying taxes to Colabella.
After the stabbing, Mercado and an associate sent a third member of their group to the hospital to keep the injured drug dealer from talking to police.
The group later demanded that the drug dealer give them his car, prosecutors said. As of Saturday, 30 of 36 defendants in the case have been convicted.