Thursday, July 10, 2008
Multi Agency Effort to Bring Two Violent Gang members to Justice
Los Angeles: The FBI, State Department along with the Los Angeles police have arrested two brothers from an Asian gang who were responsible for a series of murders in one of the largest multi-defendant death penalty cases in California History. The two are currently awaiting extradition to California from the Philippines.
Detectives have been tracking Marvin, 35, and Pierre Mercado, 32, for more than a decade now. The Mercado brothers are members of a violent Asian street gang in Los Angeles. Since the early 1990s, police have connected the two men to multiple gang-related crimes including burglary, robbery, attempt murder, and murder.
In 1995, the LAPD created a task force to address this violent street gang. For months, detectives focused on the group. They were up against cultural barriers, language issues, and a strict code of silence. Finally, the team of detectives was able to identify most of the members and connect them to some of the most violent unsolved crimes throughout the region.
"The FBI has been seeking the Mercado brothers overseas on behalf of the LAPD for several years," said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. "It is gratifying to know that some of the victims of their alleged crimes will have the chance to see them returned to the U.S. to face prosecution. The FBI and the LAPD work collaboratively to capture fugitives that flee Los Angeles - and justice."
On December 3, 1993, turmoil broke out at a Los Angeles pool hall and a turf war began between two rival gangs. During the brawl, which was caught on surveillance tape, the two gangs got into a serious shootout. After the police studied the tape, they found out that Chung Lewong Yang attacked members of the rival Asian gang, including one of their members, Lea Mek, who died at scene. Following the shooting, police believe the Mercado brothers and their gang declared war on Wah Ching.
The pool hall brawl marked the beginning of a three year crime spree by the Asian gang, who had vowed to seek revenge. During an 18-month stretch between 1995 and 1996, police connected the Asian gang to a dozen murders:
On April 14, 1995, near Valerio Street and Van Nuys Boulevard, members of the Asian gang shot and killed two rival Valerio Street gang members, Armando Estrada and Eugene Alonzo in an apartment complex.
On August 1, 1995, Cheng Peng, Paul Vu, and Ben Liao were driving on the I-10 freeway near San Gabriel, when they were attacked by the Asian gang in a brutal drive by shooting. All three victims died at scene.
On September 20, 1995, Jon Gregory, his wife, and two children were asleep in their home, when members of the Asian gang forced their way into the home and shot and killed Jon, while he tried to protect his family.
On May 30, 1996, officers rounded up 19 members of the Asian gang. However, the police did not have enough evidence to hold two of the top leaders, Sothi Mehn and Marvin Mercado.
In 1997, police finally got a break when an informant came forward and the Deputy District Attorney filed murder warrants for Sothi Mehn and Marvin Mercado. Mehn was captured in Phnom Penh, Cambodia by members of the Cambodian Army. His arrest was direct result of a tip from "America's Most Wanted."
Seven of the gang members have been convicted and are serving life sentences. It was the largest multi-defendant death penalty case in California history. During the trial, the state's most important witness, an Asian gang member was testifying in court, when his father was murdered in his home in San Jose by the rival gang, in an attempt to dissuade his testimony.
Investigators found out that Marvin and Pierre Mercado were hiding out in the Philippines. LAPD detectives along with the FBI, State Department, and the Philippine Government captured the two brothers in Manila in September 2007.
Currently, Marvin and Pierre are being detained in the Philippines pursuant to immigration violations. Their extradition has been pending a habeas corpus hearing. Detectives from the LAPD have recently travelled to the Philippines to assist the FBI and Philippine authorities in extraditing the Mercado brothers back to Los Angeles to face trial. Marvin Mercado has been indicted by a grand jury for six counts of murder and other charges. Pierre Mercado faces attempt murder charges, all stemming from their days as gang members.
When Marvin and Pierre Mercado are returned to Los Angeles to face trial, the Asian Boyz crime spree will finally come to an end. Despite the unusually long habeas corpus hearing in the Philippines, we are confident that the Mercados will be returned by the authorities there to face justice. This case epitomizes the Los Angeles Police Department's commitment to pursue criminal gang members no matter how many years have passed, and even if they are half a world away.
If you have any questions, please contact Sergeant Walter Teague at 213-972-2460 or Media Relations at 213-485-3586.