Three Orange County gang members have been found guilty of murdering another gang member on behalf of the Mexican Mafia, according to the United States Department of Justice.
Mike Escobar, 40, of Anaheim, James Mendez, 44, of Garden Grove, and Kevin Trejor, 36, of Anaheim were each found guilty of one count of “violent crime in aid of racketeering.”
The three men all belonged to different street gangs, according to the DOJ, but have been described as “foot soldiers” for the Mexican Mafia — which is comprised of mostly senior members of Latino gangs operating in Southern California and in state prisons.
The three carried out a hit on Costa Mesa gang member Richard Velleda, allegedly on behalf of Johnny Martinez, who was identified by the DOJ as a high-ranking member of the Mexican Mafia.
Martinez, 47, is currently incarcerated for other crimes, but is a co-defendant in this case.
According to evidence presented in the eight-day trial, on Aug. 21, 2017, the three men tricked Villeda into driving with them from his home in Anaheim to a residential neighborhood in Orange where they proceeded to shoot him seven times in the back and once in the head.
The murder was allegedly ordered by Martinez, who accused the victim of stealing drugs and money that were controlled by Martinez.
Escobar, Mendez and Trejor are due in court for sentencing in March 2024. They each face a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Martinez has pleaded not guilty to the charges in this case and he is scheduled to begin trial in June 2024.