In California there are many who believe that the most powerful Latino in the state isn’t one of the Golden State’s politicians nor any influential, behind-the-scenes powerbroker.
No, the Latino many think holds the most clout in California doesn’t even have a Spanish surname—and his home isn’t a mansion but the humblest of abodes.
His name is Danny Roman, and his home for the rest of his life is Pelican Bay State Prison, 350 miles north of San Francisco.
From behind bars, Roman runs the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang whose reach stretches far beyond the penitentiary walls. More powerful in some communities than any multi-national corporation, the Mexican Mafia operates throughout California and controls the drug market in Roman’s hometown, Los Angeles.
No one knows just how much money Roman and the Mexican Mafia have—or where they have it stashed—but their fortune is believed to be as much as hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe more.
In recent years, out of its own choosing by imposing gang war truces, the Mexican Mafia has maintained a low profile, interrupted only when a prosecutor decides to go after an organized crime group whose leadership remains behind bars.
That was the case again this week when a federal prosecutor secured indictments against 29 gang members from the Harpy’s Dead End Gang that the feds called “one of more than a dozen Latino gangs across a wide swath of South Los Angeles allegedly controlled by Mexican Mafia member Danny Roman.”
Danny Roman’s daughter and son-in-law are running the Mexican mafia
Among those indicted are Roman’s daughter Vianna and son-in-law Aaron Soto who, according to the government, have been running the Mexican Mafia’s criminal operation under Roman’s direction.
If all this sounds like something out of an HBO or Showtime series, don’t be too surprised if this doesn’t wind up there in the next season or two. You would think a prosecutor is already working on a deal. After all, one of the feds went so far as to title this most recent assault on gangster Danny Roman “Operation Roman Empire.”
Imagine, Danny Roman who was convicted of first degree murder in 1984 calling all the shots through coded language in letters and over the phone in this criminal enterprise from his maximum security perch near the Oregon border as if he were the Hispanic Vito Corleone.
In addition to drug dealing and violence charges, the indictment alleges that Roman’s daughter and son-in-law instructed yet another underworld lieutenant who oversaw the collection of “tax payments from all Hispanic gangs under D. Roman’s control.”
One gang, the feds allege, extorted taxes from vendors at a swap meet, while the Harpys engaged “in armed robberies of local residents, including students of the University of Southern California.”
Danny Roman’s organization victimized students and other residents near USC
The last five words might offer a clue as to why Danny Roman and the Mexican Mafia have been targeted here: The University of Southern California.
USC sits in the heart of gangland in South Los Angeles, and not long ago two Asian graduate students were shot to death in their car near the campus in what turned out to be a crime committed by gang members.
Most recently, on Halloween a shooting left at least one wounded at a party on the campus, leading USC officials to re-examine the private university’s security.
Both violent crimes, though, involved black gangsters or members of the black community in South Los Angeles.
More importantly, there is little indication that Latino gangs have been involved in criminal activity at or around USC, according to sources familiar with the Mexican Mafia.
But this makes great press. Someone needs to be seen or to take credit for cracking down on gang activity near the campus of one of the most expensive private universities in the world—what is it they call USC in some places in Los Angeles? The University of Spoiled Children?
And the feds, notorious for playing Keystone Cops with criminals like those who brought down the nation’s economy in 2007 and 2008 have made a slam dunk case against the easiest of crime lords, one who is safely in prison for the rest of his life.
It is one more reason why Danny Roman is the most powerful Latino in California, maybe even beyond.