Patterico's Pontifications

1/10/2007

L.A. Times Lionized Man With Highly Questionable Background

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:04 am

This is an amusing (if distressing) post about a L.A. Times puff piece from July 2005 about a man named Hector Marroquin, Sr. The article portayed Marroquin as a former gang member who “turned his life around long ago” and left the gang life:

Big Hector Marroquin still looks like the widely feared gang leader he once was. Tattoos spiral up his big arms and across his chest and a heavy gold chain hangs at his neck. His head gleams bald above a lush, chestnut goatee and a cross dangles from a pierced eyebrow. Black Ray-Bans rest on his forehead. He looks like a man who is used to being obeyed.

He turned his life around long ago by becoming a roofer, building his own company and becoming a man of peace. By the mid-1990s, law enforcement officers, ministers and a state senator were seeking him out to negotiate gang truces from Lennox to Santa Monica.

According to the article, once he was clean, Marroqin started a legitimate gang intervention agency:

Within a year, Hector Sr. had founded No Guns, a gang intervention agency funded by the city.

“No Guns.” Remember that name. It will provide comic relief later in this post. The article continues:

The Marroquins do what worked for them: Give troubled men hard work, honest money and male support. So far, 60 former felons have found construction jobs and gained union membership through their program.

The article implies that, since starting his gang intervention agency, Marroquin Sr. has had only one brush with the law, a weapons arrest which led to an acquittal. That arrest is portrayed as a cautionary tale about how unreasonable authority figures refused to believe that a man could turn his life around.:

It hasn’t been a smooth walk. In 1998, Hector Sr. was tried on illegal weapons charges and acquitted. The case and accompanying news coverage scarred his reputation.

“If a good man can turn bad, how come a bad man can’t turn good?” Big Hector asked.

This fluff job quoted exactly three people: Marroquin, and two other employees of his gang intervention agency . . . one of whom is his son.

Notably, it does not quote any police officers.

A recent L.A. Weekly story about Marroquin does quote police officers — and it paints quite a different picture of Marroquin indeed (h/t Patricia).

The L.A. Weekly article chronicles Marroquin’s several serious brushes with the law — many involving firearms — since starting “No Guns.” Police say Marroquin is a Mexican Mafia gang member who allegedly ordered a hit on a police informant — according to that informant, who is now dead. The criminal legal problems of Marroquin’s son and daughter, both of whom worked at “No Guns,” have been eye-opening as well, including his daughter’s alleged involvement in the burning of a corpse whose brains were splattered across the walls of “No Guns.” And the story also discusses how Marroquin collected big bucks from government officials, despite financial irregularities that had been revealed in an audit conducted before The Times published its puff piece.

The ugly details are in the extended entry.

The L.A. Weekly piece says:

In the case of so-called peacemaker Hector Marroquin, veteran investigators who have probed his activities for years believe he lives a double life as a menacing tax collector for the Mexican Mafia, the prison-based crime syndicate that controls the Latino street drug trade throughout Southern California. That grim assessment is supported by local police, Drug Enforcement Administration reports and L.A. Sheriff’s Department memos obtained by the L.A. Weekly, including transcripts of taped phone conversations between Marroquin and confidential informants. Some investigators believe Marroquin’s shooting last month was sanctioned by the Mexican Mafia, which has threatened Marroquin before, though some police officials say the job was too sloppy to be a professional hit.

“People were hopeful for Hector to clean up the streets,” says L.A. County Sheriff’s Department detective Karen Shonka. “He would pitch a good pitch. But he is a bad person. He always gets away with things because of the way the system works.”

This dark, alternate view of Marroquin is in stark contrast to the protective embrace of Marroquin by City Hall. In fact, L.A. Bridges officials kept money flowing to No Guns even after Marroquin was arrested in March — for gun possession — and long after his children, Charleeda and Hector Jr., employed in key positions at No Guns, became mired in violent and bizarre incidents.

The L.A. Times article claims that Marroquin and his son, Hector Jr., both turned their lives around after Hector, Jr. was whacked in the head with a 40-ounce beer bottle in 1996, and Marroquin Sr. was shot trying to protect his son in the aftermath. Marroquin later started No Guns and employed Hector, Jr. and his daughter Charleeda. But, the L.A. Weekly article tells us, while the elder Marroquin currently faces trial on yet another gun possession charge,

Hector Jr. — an admitted 18th Street gang member who worked as a youth counselor at No Guns — now sits in jail, facing trial in January on a home-invasion robbery charge involving a mother and her baby the day after Christmas in 2005. Police investigating the home invasion confiscated from Hector Jr.’s home a small arsenal: a Czech Luger, a Glock, a Beretta Tomcat and a Smith & Wesson automatic pistol.

Remember the name of Marroquin’s organization: No Guns. Heh.

As for Marroquin’s daughter, Charleeda, who was the treasurer of No Guns?

Police arrested Charleeda in 2001 after she and fellow gang members admitted dumping the badly mutilated body of a young man — shot at close range in the head at No Guns’ offices — near her dad’s property in San Bernardino. The victim was found with his hands and genitals badly burned.

The young man’s brains had been “spattered on a wall” of the No Guns office, but the gang members present (and the mother of one of them) said the young man, who was called “Clumsy,” had died playing Russian Roulette. They apparently didn’t explain why the carpet was “missing a large cutout area” — or why “Charleeda Marroquin drove Clumsy’s body to a remote area, where she and other gang members burned his genitals and lower extremities — reasons unknown.”

I can understand why they didn’t explain that. Because it’s rather inexplicable.

San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies’ arrest of Charleeda, the treasurer of No Guns, on suspicion of arson and accessory to murder, was no secret: It made local headlines. But, “San Bernardino sheriffs told us that the district attorney didn’t want to prosecute Charleeda,” says [Hawthorne gang investigator Sergeant Ti] Goetz. “The sheriffs told us the D.A. said it was too political, on account of Charleeda’s father. He had a lot of pull with some high-profile politicians.”

Nor has Marroquin Sr. escaped brushes with the law. In connection with the death of “Clumsy,” police searched the “No Guns” offices. Inside, they found “a police baton, a throwing knife and 18th Street gang medallions and paraphernalia.” This was a violation of Marroquin’s probation — after starting No Guns, he had been placed on probation for “turning a rifle on Sheriff’s deputies after a domestic disturbance.” But, despite the probation violation, “three months later, Marroquin and No Guns got their first City Hall subcontract to steer kids from gangs.”

The L.A. Weekly article says that Marroquin Sr.

[has] been arrested repeatedly and charged with felonies while doing business with Los Angeles City Hall and the County Probation Department. But many times, witnesses have refused to cooperate — and family members have taken blame for guns found at his house.

One of Marroquin’s encounters with the law can’t be adequately summarized, so I’ll quote the passage in its entirety:

One key incident places Marroquin in the middle of a complex, deadly gang scenario. According to a Sheriff’s memo generated by [Retired prison gang investigator Richard] Valdemar’s warnings, in August 1998, Marroquin allegedly held a meeting of local gangs at his own home in Lennox, ordering, at the behest of the Mexican Mafia, a “green light” on the Lennox 13 gang — the street equivalent of a license to kill.

One attendee at the meeting was snitch and Lennox 13 gang member Vito “Capone” Medina, who had been taping his phone conversations with Marroquin and talking to federal and local investigators. Medina openly balked at the order to kill members of his own gang, but other gangsters at the meeting immediately went out looking for Lennox 13 members, the memo states.

Over the next 14 days, 20 attacks occurred, including the murders of three Lennox 13 members, according to the confidential sheriff’s memo. Several nights later, on September 5, 1998, Medina’s own Lennox 13 homeboys shot him — in a grim effort to get themselves off the Mexican Mafia’s green-light list, according to the memo. Medina’s shooting led to a search of Marroquin’s house, where police seized stolen guns, cash and notes regarding phone calls from Marroquin to convicted Mexican Mafia members Bustamante and Shyrock — ironically, along with paperwork from No Guns.

Vito Medina, gravely wounded, lived almost six more months. Before he died, on April 2, 1999, he identified the shooters and insisted that Marroquin, as an associate of the Mexican Mafia, ordered his murder, the memo states. The actual gunmen who killed Medina were sentenced to just six years. Marroquin was never charged.

A police officer explains that the case against Marroquin could not be proved after the informant died:

None of this is a mystery to Detective Shonka, who interviewed the fading Medina in a hospital bed. “Because Vito got killed, the whole case went to shit,” she says of the DEA investigation that relied on Medina as a snitch. To Shonka, Marroquin never had to pay: “Hector found out Vito was an informant. He is just a good businessman. I just can’t believe he is still running this No Guns thing. He can sell his little game. He is really scary.”

I’m starting to see why the L.A. Times said Marroquin “looks like a man who is used to being obeyed.”

This wasn’t the only time that a person who posed a threat to Marroquin later died under mysterious circumstances. According to the article, police once warned Marroquin of information they had learned of a suspected threat on Marroquin’s life. They did not name the person they suspected of the plan to kill Marroquin, but weeks later, that person was killed on the streets of Cudahy. No evidence connected Marroquin to the murder and the assailant(s) were never found.

Three months before the L.A. Times ran its flattering portrait of Marroquin, he was alleged to have committed robbery, and to have threatened the victim’s life. Marroquin allegedly claimed membership in the Mexican Mafia:

Who is Hector Marroquin, touted peacemaker? Local police got another glimpse just last year, in April 2005 [the L.A. Times article was from July 2005 — Ed.], when he was arrested on suspicion of robbery, false imprisonment and making criminal threats after allegedly terrorizing a Cudahy youth overdue in paying $4,000 for luxury tires and 22-inch rims Marroquin had sold him. According to the Maywood-Cudahy Police Department report, Marroquin assaulted the youth at a bar Marroquin owns in Cudahy, stole his truck and threatened to kill him and his family. “You’re messing with the Mexican Mafia!” the report quotes Marroquin as shouting. “I run all of Cudahy! I want my money!”

Marroquin denied he stole and sold the teenager’s truck, insisting he merely kept it as collateral. Two months later, as with past cases involving Marroquin, the alleged victim declined to testify.

It’s true that the case did not result in a conviction. But it’s very curious that the L.A. Times mentioned another case of Marroquin’s — a simple weapons charge that resulted in an acquittal — but didn’t see fit to mention this arrest, which paints him in a far worse light.

But brushes with the law aren’t the only issues Marroquin has had. There are also significant questions about how he has run his taxpayer-funded business. It turns out that a city audit conducted in 2004 — before the L.A. Times published its puff piece — had revealed

No Guns’ questionable financial practices — unexplained cash withdrawals from No Guns accounts and shoddy payroll records . . .

Yet according to the L.A. Weekly, this had no effect on the city’s decision to finance No Guns. And even after Hector Jr. was arrested for home invasion robbery, a city official extended No Guns’s contract, explaining to a colleague that, according to Hector Jr., a police officer had a personal issue with the family. And when a criminal defendant says the cops have it in for him, what room is there for skepticism? If you’re a city official, your only real option is to keep throwing tax dollars at the defendant. Wouldn’t you say?

All in all, it’s a pretty good story of government malfeasance and inattention, huh? But the L.A. Times didn’t break it. Perhaps they were embarrassed by their credulous portrait of Marroquin in 2005 — a story that, according to the L.A. Weekly article, actually helped Marroquin con money out of City Hall:

A touching L.A. Times story in 2005 described Marroquin — a burly, bald-headed man with an “Aztec Warrior” tattoo, known on the street as “Weasel” — choking back tears of redemption. The message for years has been: Weasel left his old life behind.

Marroquin’s emotional confession and street knowledge impressed the right people and helped him win fat contracts. Thanks in part to his No Guns salary of close to $90,000 a year, he enjoyed all the trappings of mainstream success, such as his Navigator and numerous properties and businesses, including a bar he purchased for $645,000 in 2004 in his wife and daughter’s names.

Do I know whether Marroquin is a criminal, or a bad guy? No, I don’t. All I know is that, reading the two articles, it really looks as though the L.A. Times did a laughably poor job of looking into this fellow’s history, opting instead for the lazy puff piece that doesn’t quote anyone who might have something bad to say about him. As a result, the L.A. Weekly has really scooped and embarrassed the L.A. Times with this one.

33 Responses to “L.A. Times Lionized Man With Highly Questionable Background”

  1. Media Watching…

    I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at this entry from Patterico. Actually, scratch that: it’s pretty clearly cryin’ time. The LA Times’ cluelessness is chuckle-worthy, but their subject matter here is outrageous and tragic. In 2005, the……

    Michelle Malkin (3ca10e)

  2. Passing up the easy irony of linking this story to another, much more expensive government program that’s supposed to be quelling violence but has failed miserably…

    And passing up the subtler irony of pointing out that many of the clowns running the other, much more expensive “anti-gang” program caused much of L.A.s current gang problem with their Central American antics in the 1980s…

    This guy in the story is going on trial this month…should a local prosecutor be posting a negative story about him now?

    [I know nothing about the case other than what I’ve read, and I’m not prosecuting the case. You’re treading on thin ice. — P]

    Neville Chamberlain (80a4fa)

  3. This is why things like Skidmore happen.

    Becky (28d075)

  4. Neville, let me elaborate on what I mean when I say that you’re treading on thin ice.

    I know it’s your MO to make casual, poorly thought out accusations of malfeasance by those on the right. Your comment is just another example of that.

    But you will not make casual, poorly thought out comments that suggest I am doing something wrong with respect to my job.

    I am not, and spurious suggestions that I am, will earn the commenter a one-way ticket to Bansville.

    Now, it would be different if you came up with something solid, like a court decision or ethics opinion directly on point, that says that a prosecutor acts unethically if, with absolutely no inside knowledge of a case, he makes a public comment on the case based entirely on published news reports, that says nothing about the circumstances of the case, on a site that says:

    The statements made on this web site reflect the personal opinions of the author. They are not made in any official capacity, and do not represent the opinions of the author’s employer.

    But casual slurs relating to my job will not be tolerated.

    I trust that I have made myself perfectly clear.

    Patterico (a8fa4a)

  5. I know it’s your MO to make casual, poorly thought out accusations of malfeasance by those on the right.

    You ought to ban him just for that. His drive-by shit-flinging is getting really old.

    Dubya (c16726)

  6. Shorter “Neville Chamberlain” – Its all Reagan’s fault, so shut up about poor Hector.

    rob roy fingerhead (deecb8)

  7. The immoral Neville “knows” gangbangers as it “knows” anything about history or the military… indeed, immoral Neville is a poor schlub’s Tokyo Rose squeeking truthiness to power.

    Darleen (543cb7)

  8. Shouldn’t we be writing to the Times to ask when we should expect their follow-up piece on Mr. Marroquin?

    aunursa (6eaa2e)

  9. Oh, NC was out of line. Still I’d like it if you wouldn’t ban him. Most of the time he’s pure entertainment.

    G (722480)

  10. personal redemption is an article of the liberal faith the same way santa claus is an article of a child’s faith. the sacrament of the liberal faith is throwing public money at something.

    question for patterico about that mitt romney ad: are you just selling adspace, or does that constitute an endorsement?

    assistant devil's advocate (206c6d)

  11. …poor schlub’s Tokyo Rose squeeking truthiness to power…

    That’s sooo 2006! It’s “factiness” now. 8)

    Dubya (c16726)

  12. Media Watching…

    Media Watching See-Dubya I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at this entry from Patterico. Actually, scratch that: it’s pretty clearly cryin’ time. The LA Times’ cluelessness is chuckle-worthy, but their subject matter here is outrageous and tr…

    Bill's Bites (72c8fd)

  13. How many times does the LACo DA’s office let slide a felons’ firearms transgressions? If his gun possession was referred to the Fed Atty for prosecution, you could get this guy off the street for five to ten years. Or, is the local Fed Atty not interested in enforcing Fed Law?
    As to NC: What a putz! Is he an aide to Maxinne Waters? Isn’t the CentAm/Reagan/drugs circle-jerk her entire political being?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  14. Of course we all know how the SMELL A TIMES always pay attention to these wackos just look at the way they treated the infamous MICHEAL BELLSEILES and his fruadelent book ARMING AMERICA

    krazy kagu (376605)

  15. While you’re beating up on NC, you may as well inform him that Cal. Civ. Code s.45a describes what is essentially libel per se as thus:

    A libel which is defamatory of the plaintiff without the necessity of explanatory matter, such as an inducement, innuendo or other extrinsic fact, is said to be a libel on its face….

    Section 46 defines slander:

    Slander is a false and unprivileged publication, orally uttered, and also communications by radio or any mechanical or other means which:
    […]
    3. Tends directly to injure him in respect to his office, profession, trade or business, either by imputing to him general disqualification in those respects which the office or other occupation peculiarly requires, or by imputing something with reference to his office, profession, trade, or business that has a natural tendency to lessen its profits; ….

    I can’t opine as to the law in California, but from what I know, defamation per se usually includes making unfounded disparagements about someone’s profession.

    Thin ice indeed.

    MichaelW (ef69b7)

  16. Woah!

    I keep my posts brief because this ain’t my blog…

    1. If you can’t see any similarities between the failed anti-gang program L.A. Bridges and the Iraq war…you’re not looking very hard.

    2. The role current administration officials like John Negroponte played in creating MS-13, arguably L.A. and America’s most dangerous gang, should by obvious even to right-wing idealogues.

    3. Finally, I wasn’t accusing P of “malfeasance” with my post. I’m sure his post was just meant to another criticism of the L.A. Times.

    But, a prosecutor posting evidence, which by my limited understanding of the law, won’t be allowed during Mr. Marroquin’s upcoming trial, on a website seems like a bad idea.

    Imagine if all prosecutors did this?

    If you go to our website…you can see all the stuff we have on this guy that the law prohibits me from showing you here in court…

    Neville Chamberlain (80a4fa)

  17. Nevill, Patterco was quoting a news story. Information already out in public. Nothing he has privileged access to, as your remark #3 implies. BTY, you are continuing to impute our host professionally, again. Read post #15 and understand it.

    larry (336e87)

  18. The ice just gave way, SNeville!

    Dubya (c16726)

  19. I think you meant post 4

    But casual slurs relating to my job will not be tolerated.

    I trust that I have made myself perfectly clear.

    Dubya (c16726)

  20. I don’t see that my post injures P in any way, larry.

    He has a chance to set a much needed precident here.

    It seems to me that reading this post is sufficient ground to dismiss any potential juror…or judge…from Mr. Marroquin’s trial.

    Neville Chamberlain (80a4fa)

  21. *Kraak, sploosh!*

    What was that sound?

    SNeville broke through the ice.

    Buhbye SNeville!

    Dubya (c16726)

  22. Neville,

    Your posts are going into moderation until you show a clear sign that you understand why you can’t do what you’ve been doing, and that you won’t do it again.

    I’m not banning you. I’m just putting your comments in moderation.

    You say:

    But, a prosecutor posting evidence, which by my limited understanding of the law, won’t be allowed during Mr. Marroquin’s upcoming trial, on a website seems like a bad idea.

    Imagine if all prosecutors did this?

    If you go to our website…you can see all the stuff we have on this guy that the law prohibits me from showing you here in court…

    But I am not the prosecutor, Neville. And I am discussing only information that has been printed in widely-read publications, because I know nothing about the case otherwise.

    So you have absolutely no point. And you were warned.

    I’m happy to allow all manner of stupid arguments on this blog, and even all manner of comments about what a terrible blogger I am. But I won’t allow stupid, poorly thought out, dishonest, or otherwise moronic comments that insinuate that I have done something wrong with respect to my job.

    I will approve your comments that don’t run afoul of this rule. But I’m afraid that your comments will not appear immediately, which may impede your ability to engage in contemporaneous debate.

    Comments that do run afoul of my simple rule will be deleted without further ceremony.

    You can fix this immediately. Apologize and promise not to do it again.

    Patterico (a8fa4a)

  23. “I’m happy to allow all manner of stupid arguments on this blog …”

    OK, that explains why I’m still here. 😉

    Neville is a noodge. Or possibly a kvetch. Schlemiel certainly fits and shlimazel would not be stretching it too much.

    nk (35ba30)

  24. Well, he did have one humorous comment amongst the hundreds of farcical ones, anyway. :0

    Dubya (c16726)

  25. “The LA Times’ cluelessness is chuckle-worthy”

    This sort of thing has been going on for decades. Gangster pretends to have a change of heart, and forms a fake organization to fight violence and poverty. Liberal journalists fall all over each other to worship him, while denigrating law officers who point to evidence that he’s a fraud. next the gangster lobbies for government funds and the journalists smear anyone who opposes this. Finally, when the evidence of criminality becomes too blatent for anyone to ignore, the journalists drop the topic down the memory hole.

    pst314 (20d3ed)

  26. The LAT article is just another example of a sheltered upper middle class lefty fawning on an “authentic” “tough” “genuinely ghetto” type of guy. It thrills them to the marrow of their bones to admire this tough thug.

    Miriam (20cd38)

  27. The left just needed a new “reformed” gang member since they jabbed the needle into Tookie.

    Gerald (14a324)

  28. Well guess what,I know this FAKE ASS is not from the MEXICAN MAFIA ,the way he would like for people to belive,but I know differently he is not from there,as a matter of fact he is scared of them that’s why he runs like a BITCH when he see’s them coming his way to question him, don’t you guys get it if you pretened to be something your not one day you will be accountable for your words and actions, and when it comes to the people who run the show in and out of the prison system it’s not a good thing to try and act like one of them cause sooner or later they will call you on it, so don’t let this man fool you people, don’t get me wrong all the crimes they say he did is true just not the part of him being from THE MEXICAN MAFIA cause that’s a joke in it self!

    Can't Say (5d5842)

  29. Let me also tell you how he dose live a double life and has for a lot of years,and likes to treat people like shit and how only he matters no matter who you are, if you get him mad you better look over your shoulder because him and his daughter are very vengeful people, not so much the son but he also has a temper problem that you need to look out for, and this goes for all three of them when they drink you really can’t be to careful cause they are like time bombs waiting to go off, I saw it first hand many times over and over, and I saw alot of people get hurt, and lets not forget all of Hector Sr.’s many girlfriends that even his son and daughter sit and have drinks with and even go have dinner with sometimes while their mother sits at home waiting for Hector Sr. to return home to her, and one never knows if he’s even going home cause many nights he just rents a motel room for himself and one of his many lady frinds, please feel free to comment on what I have wrote here, I will be happy to comment back any time.

    Can't Say (5d5842)

  30. For the Unhinged file…

    Anti-violence advocate going to the pokey for throwing woman through window. Kinda reminds me of this self-proclaimed “anti-gun” gang in LA. H/T to another Dave. Lots of bloggers out there named Dave. And John. Not so many Maynards…….

    JunkYardBlog (621918)

  31. […] Big Weasel’s No Guns organization received a cool $1.5 million from the city’s LA Bridges program. Marroquin received the funds despite being arrested for ex-felon in possession of a gun last year (click and scroll down five posts) by police searching his house looking to arrest his son for a home invasion robbery and despite ample evidence he remained a very active, dangerous criminal who was a tax collector for the Mexican Mafia. […]

    » Right Pundits (5401a9)

  32. […] “No Guns.” (As I wrote at the time, this story was pushed by the L.A. Weekly, which ate the L.A. Times’s lunch on the […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » More on the Arrested “Reformed” Gang Member Alex Sanchez (e4ab32)

  33. […] Big Weasel’s No Guns organization received a cool $1.5 million from the city’s LA Bridges program. Marroquin received the funds despite being arrested for ex-felon in possession of a gun last year (click and scroll down five posts) by police searching his house looking to arrest his son for a home invasion robbery and despite ample evidence he remained a very active, dangerous criminal who was a tax collector for the Mexican Mafia. […]

    LA anti-gang "pioneer" arrested by ATF - Paco Villa Corrections blog (3d2a8b)


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