Mexican Mafia
In Deuel Vocational Institution, California, United States
Founded by Luis "Huero Buff" Flores
Years active 1957–present
Territory US federal prison system
Ethnicity Mexican, Mexican-American and other Ethnic groups
Criminal activities Murder, money laundering, weapon trafficking, drug trafficking, Kidnapping, pandering, racketeering, extortion and illegal gambling
Allies Sureños, Aryan Brotherhood, Tijuana Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel
Rivals Nuestra Familia,[1][2][3]Black Guerrilla Family,[1][3] Arizona's New Mexican Mafia,[1][1][1][4][1] Norteños [5]


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Mexican Mafia

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Gang's name tattooed on gang member's abdomen.

The Mexican Mafia, also known as La Eme (Spanish for the letter M) is a Mexican criminal organization, and is one of the oldest and most powerful prison gangs in the United States.


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Sinaloa Cartel hierarchy in early 2008

The Mexican Mafia was formed in 1957 by Mexican street gang members incarcerated at the Deuel Vocational Institution, a state prison located in Tracy, California. The founder of the gang was Luis "Huero Buff" Flores, who was previously a member of the Hawaiian Gardens gang. According to Tony Rafael,

Luis Flores initially recruited violent members to the gang, in an attempt to create a highly-feared organization which could control the black market activities of the Deuel prison facilities. According to Eme turncoat Ramon "Mundo" Mendoza,

According to Luis Flores,

State Prison System

According to Chris Blatchford,

A string of other slayings soon followed as Eme members sought to establish a reputation among the inmates of San Quentin. According to Blatchford,

Criminal activities

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The Mexican Mafia is an organization involved in extortion, drug trafficking, and murder, both inside and outside the prison system. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Mexican Mafia had arranged for contract killings to be carried out by the Aryan Brotherhood, a white prison gang. Both the Mexican Mafia and the Aryan Brotherhood are mutual enemies of the African-American gang Black Guerilla Family.

The first prison gang street execution in Los Angeles was committed by the Mexican Mafia in 1971. Responsible for the murder was a gang member named Joe "Pegleg" Morgan. Morgan was well respected within the ranks of the Mexican Mafia and became a high ranking member. His connections with cocaine and heroin suppliers in Mexico helped pave the foundation for the Mexican Mafia's narcotics distribution throughout California. During the 1970s, while under the control of Rodolfo Cadena, the Mexican Mafia often took control over various community groups. The gang was able to filter money from alcohol and drug prevention programs to finance their criminal activities. The Mexican Mafia and the Italian-American Los Angeles crime family collaborated in skimming money from Get Going, a taxpayer-funded drug treatment program. By 1977, Get Going founder Ellen Delia was determined to expose the infiltration of her beloved program. Shortly before an appointment with the California State Secretary of Health and Welfare Services, Delia was murdered. Her collection of evidence on Italian and Mexican Mafia infiltration of the Get Going program was never recovered.

In 1995, United States federal authorities indicted 22 members and associates of the Mexican Mafia, charged under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act with crimes which included extortion, murder and kidnapping. One of the arrested members, Benjamin "Topo" Peters, was allegedly the Mexican Mafia's highest ranking member at the time, and was engaged in a power struggle with fellow member Ruben "Tupi" Hernandez. Another indicted member was accused of having plotted the death of an anti-gang activist who served as a consultant for the film American Me. The indictments marked a two-year investigation by federal, local and state law enforcement officials.

In 2006, a 36-count federal indictment was brought against members of the Mexican Mafia. The arrests were made for alleged acts of violence, drug dealing, and extortion against smaller Latino street gangs. According to the federal indictment, Mexican Mafia members exert their influence in both federal and state prison systems through either violence or the threat of violence.

Members and associates of the gang remain fiercely loyal to the criminal organization both in and outside of prison, particularly in Southern California cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego. The gang asserts its influence over Chicano gangs throughout Southern California by threatening violence against their members should they ever become incarcerated. Gangs and drug dealers who refuse to pay a protection "tax" to the Mexican Mafia are often murdered or threatened with murder. High-ranking members of the Mexican Mafia who are locked in private cells for 23 hours of each day are still able to communicate with their associates, through methods which range from tapping in code on prison plumbing pipes to smuggled letters.


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While the Mexican Mafia is a highly-organized criminal entity, it is believed that the gang presently is not presided over by a single leader.Prison membership of the gang is believed to consist of hundreds of members with authority to order murders, and at least thousands of associates who can carry out those orders.

Members of the Mexican Mafia are expected to engage in tests of their loyalty to the gang, which may include theft or murder. The penalty for refusing orders or failing to complete an assigned task is often death. According to the gang's constitution, members may also be punished or murdered if they commit any of four major infractions. These include becoming an informant, acts of homosexuality, acts of cowardice, and showing disrespect against fellow gang members. According to gang policy, a member of the Mexican Mafia may not be murdered without prior approval by a vote of three members, yet the murder of non-members requires no formal approval.

During the early 1960s at San Quentin Prison, Luis Flores and Rudy "Cheyenne" Cadena established a blood oath for members of the Mexican Mafia. Prior to the establishment of the oath, members of the Mexican Mafia were allowed to return to their street gangs after incarceration. The new oath stipulated that the only way for a member to leave the Mexican Mafia was to be killed. Flores and Cadena also established a set of gang commandments. These included policies such as: a new member must be sponsored by an existing member, unanimous approval from all existing members to join (no longer policy), prioritizing the gang over one's family, denial of the existence of the Mexican Mafia to law enforcement or non-members, respect of other members, forgiving street conflicts which existed before incarceration. Execution of a member of the gang for policy violation must be committed by the gang member who sponsored him.

While mostly found in California, the Mexican Mafia has a membership which extends to other states including Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Allies and rivals

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The Mexican Mafia is the controlling organization for almost every Chicano gang in Southern California. All members of Chicano gangs in Southern California are obligated under the threat of death to carry out any and all orders from made Mexican Mafia members. The Mexican Mafia also holds a loose alliance with the Aryan Brotherhood, mainly due to their common rivals within the prison system.

The primary rivals of the Mexican Mafia are Nuestra Familia. The Mexican Mafia is also a rival of the Black Guerrilla Family prison gang, which holds a loose alliance with Nuestra Familia.


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Mexican Mafia symbols include images of a black hand. The gang's primary symbol, which is often used in tattoos by members, is the national symbol of Mexico (eagle and a snake) atop a flaming circle over crossed knives.

Street gangs that are aligned with the Mexican Mafia often use the number 13 as a gang identifier, as the letter "M" is the 13th letter of the modern Latin-derived alphabet.

In popular culture

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The Mexican Mafia received mainstream notoriety after being featured in the 1992 movie American Me. The film was coproduced, directed and starred in by actor Edward James Olmos, who allegedly received death threats by members of the Mexican Mafia for what they considered an unflattering depiction of the gang. Three consultants for the film were murdered shortly after the film's release. The Mexican Mafia was allegedly displeased with the portrayal of the murder of Rodolfo Cadena (who was the basis for Olmos' character Santana) as being committed by his fellow gang members. Mexican Mafia Members were also allegedly offended by the portrayal of homosexually inspired sodomy committed by Olmos' character in the film. Olmos subsequently applied for a concealed handgun permit, which was denied to him.

Joe Morgan, while serving a life sentence for murder at Pelican Bay State Prison, filed a $500,000 lawsuit against Olmos, Universal Studios and other producers of the film. Morgan claimed that one of the principal characters in the film was based on him without obtaining his permission.

See also

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  • List of California street gangs
  • MS-13
  • Sinaloa Cartel
  • Sureños

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