A former member of the Big Hazard gang that authorities said terrorized residents of Ramona Gardens was sentenced to nearly 13 years behind bars after pleading guilty to conspiracy and drug trafficking charges.
City News Service reported that Victor “Grizzly” Barrios, 43, was sentenced Monday to a 155-month prison term. According to court papers, the former Boyle Heights resident will be detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deported to Mexico.
Barrios was one of 25 known members and former members of Big Hazard arrested in December of 2014 in a major Eastside sweep tagged Operation Resident Evil and one of 38 indicted under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO, which federal authorities in Los Angeles have used to battle gangs.
Barrios, who was once known as Hazard’s “shot caller” and the street gang’s second in command, had been in federal custody since this 2014 arrest. In a letter sent to the court, he acknowledged his “unwise choices” and admitted that he alone was responsible for his actions.
Barrios also wrote that prior to his arrest he had spent three years learning how to be a pastry chef with Homeboy Industries, which helps rehabilitate former gang members. He added that he had enrolled in an internship program at Bouchon, a French bistro in Beverly Hills
“Not only did I learn the art of bread baking, but I was given the chance to work as an extra in a couple of TV series,” Barrios wrote about his time with Homeboy.
At the time of the 2014 indictment, federal authorities said Big Hazard had “deep ties” to the Mexican Mafia, the most notorious and dangerous prison gang in California. The indictment said the local gang distributes methamphetamine, PCP, crack cocaine, heroin and other controlled substances in the neighborhood it controls. It also said that gang members are known to shout out references to Big Hazard during a crime to cause fear and tags gang symbols throughout the Ramona Gardens neighborhood.
The lead defendant in the 45-count indictment is Manuel “Cricket” Larry Jackson, a Mexican Mafia member who allegedly oversees the activities of the local gang.
Under authorizations of the Mexican Mafia, federal prosecutors say, Big Hazard uses murder, assault and threats to keep its members, associates and other Latino gangs in line.
The 2014 indictment outlines criminal activity dating back to 2007, including violence against people believed to have cooperated with law enforcement and threats against black residents of Ramona Gardens.
In a separate 2016 indictment, seven Big Hazard members were charged in the 2014 firebomb attack in Ramona Gardens as part of an alleged plot to drive African-American families out of the mostly Latino public housing project. Barrios was not named in the 2016 indictment.
The Big Hazard gang, which has been active in and around Ramona Gardens for some 50 years, takes its name from a nearby park. Authorities believe there are currently around 350 members of the street gang.