The kidnapping and torture of a man in Lompoc last year was ordered by high-ranking gang leader Raymond Daniel Macias to ensure the victim paid overdue “taxes,” a prosecutor said Friday in a Santa Maria courtroom.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ann Bramsen gave her closing argument in the criminal trial of Macias and Luis Alfredo Almanza in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
Defense attorney Michael Scott, who represents Macias, is scheduled to make his closing argument Monday morning before Judge Patricia Kelly. Almanza’s defense attorney, Charles Biely, also is scheduled to make his closing argument Monday.
The two defendants are charged in connection with the January 2013 torture and kidnapping of a Lompoc drug dealer by several gang members. The crime led to a grand jury issuing indictments against 11 people, Lompoc law enforcement officials announced in June 2013.
“Raymond Daniel Macias was the boss,” Bramsen said. “He was in charge of the entire Surenos organization throughout Santa Barbara County for almost three years.”
As the reported leader of the Santa Barbara-based criminal gang called the Eastside Krazies and the broader Surenos, Macias — who is named in the Santa Barbara gang injunction to limit members' activities — set the expectations, enforced the rules and hand-picked the local gang’s upper management for Santa Barbara, Lompoc and Santa Maria.
“He was one who called the shots,” Bramsen said.
Macias, whose gang moniker is “Boxer,” reported to the Mexican Mafia’s Central California leader in Fresno.
The gang leaders employ fear and intimidation.
“They used that to complete their goal. Their goal was to collect money, to make money, sell drugs … ,” she said.
But the victim, identified by his moniker of Sicko, disrespected the gang leaders by not paying money owed and then hiding out and ignoring phone calls.
“Each time you don’t follow the organization’s rules, just like anywhere, there’s consequences,” Bramsen said.
And in the gang culture those consequences typically are violent. She noted one prosecution witness told of Santa Barbara and Santa Maria murders after the victims had refused to pay “taxes” to the gang.
“These are very simple every day things that cause great violence in the gang culture,” Bramsen said.
In fact, Macias selected his co-defendant, Almanza, to oversee the gang’s Lompoc operations, picking the man who allegedly bragged of committing killings in Texas and being part of a drug cartel, according to Bramsen.
“They knew Mr. Almanza would do whatever he needed to do to further the goals of the organization,” Bramsen said.
Lompoc was a lucrative location for the gang with the most methamphetamine sales there.
Once they arrived at the garage on A Street, the gang members attacked the victim, with Almanza allegedly using the dull side of a hatchet to hit the victim’s upper arm and later cutting him on the torso.
They later spread a tarp across the floor of the garage, presumably to protect the garage from blood, Bramsen said. Then they waited, for Macias and another gang leader to show up. The victim was praying and shaking in fear, Bramsen said.
“He’s convinced, at that point, that he’s going to die that day,” Bramsen said.
To save his life, Sicko agreed to Macias’ demands to pay the overdue taxes and to be “poked,” the gang term for stabbed.
“That is what Macias wanted — money,” Bramsen said. “He owed Macias and it was mostly Mexican Mafia money.”
Macias is charged with kidnapping for extortion, torture, sale of a controlled substance and solicitation for torture.
Almanza, whose nickname is “Lucky,” also is charged with kidnapping for extortion and torture plus use of a deadly weapon while committing a crime.
Both defendants also face gang enhancements.
While the defense portrayed Macias as a peacemaker who worked with La Palabra, a nonprofit organization involved with at-risk teens, Bramsen said the defendant bragged about spending time in a Pelican Bay State Prison unit for Mexican Mafia members and sports several gang-themed tattoos..
She also noted many of the prosecution witnesses have criminal pasts.
“None of them are angels, but we’re not in heaven,” she said.
Many of those named in the original indictment were witnesses in the trial.
The indictments and arrests came after an eight-month investigation, law enforcement officials announced in a Lompoc press conference in June 2013.