Mexican Mafia member sentenced to life in prison after unusual trial that shed light on gang

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For cutting short the life of a fellow Mexican Mafia member in a hail of bullets, a judge ruled Monday that Jose Luis Loza should spend the rest of his own in a federal prison.

Loza, from Whittier, was convicted of murder, racketeering and other crimes after an unusual trial in August, in which Loza himself testified for two days. It was an unprecedented departure, law enforcement officials say, from the Mexican Mafia’s historical refusal to acknowledge in the courtroom such an organization exists, let alone discuss its politics on the witness stand.

The trial was a window into what is arguably the most powerful criminal organization in Southern California. It demonstrated how the Mexican Mafia, most of whose membership is incarcerated, holds the region’s Latino street gangs under its sway through fear and mythos, exacting a tax from virtually every dollar they make and using their members as foot soldiers for the syndicate.

Loza, 41, was born in the Imperial Valley town of Brawley, the son of a machinist and a warehouse employee. He moved as a child to Whittier, and by the age of 13, Loza testified, he had been jumped into Canta Ranas, a street gang born in the late 1940s in neighboring Santa Fe Springs.

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