By JOSH FRIEDMAN
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a high-ranking member of an Oxnard-based gang to more than 13 years in prison for attempting to secure control of drug trafficking in Ventura County, as well as for extorting money on behalf of the Mexican Mafia prison gang.
Armando “Criminal” Molina, 39, is a high-ranking member of the Surtown Chiques street gang. United States District Judge John Kronstadt sentenced Molina to 162 months in federal prison for methamphetamine-related convictions.
In Nov. 2013, authorities arrested Molina as part of Operation SuperNova, a multi-agency task force investigation that targeted Mexican Mafia-affiliated street gangs in Ventura County.
The criminal complaint against Molina details a year-long undercover investigation and outlines a series of narcotics transactions that led to the seizure of more than two pounds of methamphetamine, as well as heroin that was being sold on the streets of Ventura County.
A drug trafficking organization controlled by Mexican Mafia member Martin Madrigal-Cazares supplied the drugs. Local street gangs communicated with the head of the organization in Mexico, while controlling narcotics sales and collecting “taxes” on behalf of the Mexican Mafia in Ventura County, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
Between Oct. 2012 and March 2013, Molina and his co-conspirators sold approximately 267 grams of pure methamphetamine to a confidential informant working for an FBI task force.
Molina “was more than some street dealer doling out methamphetamine to addicts to make a buck,” prosecutors stated in a sentencing memorandum. “Rather, he was a key member in a broader, more dangerous criminal enterprise that sought to dominate profitable criminal conduct over the Ventura County region.”
In Sept. 2019, Molina stood trial for four days. At the conclusion of the trial, a federal jury convicted Molina of one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and five counts of distribution of methamphetamine.
Just prior to Molina’s trial, co-defendant Frank Joshua “Villain” Ruiz, 40, of Ventura County, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. In Feb. 2020, Ruiz was sentenced to 135 months in federal prison.
The FBI conducted the investigation in the case along with the Ventura and Oxnard police departments.