Arresting Alex Sanchez Crime and Punishment Criminal Justice FBI Gangs LAUSD

Alex Sanchez Arrested: Dear FBI, WTF???! – UPDATED

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

NOTE: FOR UPDATES, scroll down

My friend, Alex Sanchez, the executive director of Homies Unidos, and one of the most respected gang intervention leaders in Los Angeles County (and arguably in the nation), was taken into custody by FBI agents this morning at his Bellflower home.

Alex is among those named in a federal indictment
targeting several Mara Salvatrucha gang members whom the Feds said have been involved in multiple slayings, extortion, and assaults.

The LA Times’ Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton, have some back story on Alex at LA Now.

I am still in DC and am going to a sentencing reform conference soon on Capitol Hill, but I have feelers out for more information.

Everyone I know who knows this field—including some of those in and around law enforcement—is stunned.

Alex is an excellent and great-hearted man who has made a big difference in many lives.

He was targeted by the LAPD for years (when he was just beginning his gang intervention work) and they never were able to find anything on him—although not for lack of trying.

Now the FBI—which has made a near industry of making Mara Salvatrucha into the ultimate gang monsters—are having a go at it.

More as soon as I have it.
UPDATE: Alex has been indicted for conspiracy to commit murder for some 2006 gang related deaths. The Feds allege that Sanchez was the shot caller for a clique within MS-13 at the time.

By the way, I will be on Which Way LA talking about the issue.

Here’s the link
so you can listen after the fact, if you so desire. (I’m on at around the 7:28 mark.)

(Given that I spent most of the conversation with Warren Olney wandering around outside the US Senate chambers trying to find better cell reception, it is remarkable that I completed my sentences.)


UPDATE 2: Phone calls, emails, and text messages have been flying all day Wednesday. When Hector Marroquin of No Guns was arrested, most people I know (who are knowledgeable about such things, myself included) were—shall we say—not shocked.

With Alex Sanchez’s arrest…. I am—as are many people whom I know— praying that there is nothing that will stick. I don’t believe it, frankly. Alex is a very good man.

The Washington Post has a very comprehensive article on the arrests—at least as much as we know right now.

Here are some clips:
Luis Romero, director of the Homies Unidos office in El Salvador, said the organization did not accept the allegations against Sanchez.

“We know that Homies Unidos U.S.A. is doing great work in the reinsertion and rehabilitation of young people,” Romero said.


Civil rights lawyer and gang expert Connie Rice said anti-gang workers sometimes struggle to completely leave behind gang affiliations.

“The best ones are the ones who have completely gotten out of the life, but kept the relationships and still are respected,” she said. “But they are the exception and not the rule. Most of these guys are go-betweens, some act as buffers and some are still in the gang.”

Rice said she had wondered about Sanchez because he had been absent from community meetings aimed at reducing MS-13 violence.

“The thing that makes it really complicated is that Alex did really good work,” she said. “He helped a lot of kids, put a lot of kids in school.”

For the record: I do not—repeat NOT-–agree with Connie on the above matter.



HERE’S what Homies Unidos sent me as their official statement:

Homies Unidos was founded in 1996 in El Salvador. Sanchez helped establish the Los Angeles office the following year.

The office has helped remove tattoos from more than 240 gang members.

FBI officials said everyone named on the indictment could face up to 25 years to life in prison, while those charged with murder could face the death penalty. No one else from Homies Unidos was named in the indictment.

NOTE: I took the above photo of Alex Sanchez at an event at Tom Hayden’s house earlier this year.


  • I am so outraged at this! Please keep in touch with his allies and supporters across the country and let us know what we can do. Meantime, I will be praying and sending justice vibes his and his familia’s way.

  • due respect, but this was the kind of shock the when Hector Marroquin was first arrested back in the 90s. Now look where he is.Tom Hayden was a big fan of No Guns too and defended Marroquin. Maybe they don’t change so much.

  • Oh, no! Is this “Obama’s FBI” and Justice Department?

    From the article:

    Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney George Cardona said at a news conference that Sanchez was involved in a murder conspiracy in May 2006 while Homies Unidos was receiving public funds for its anti-gang work. …An FBI news release said five of the defendants, not including Sanchez, allegedly conspired to murder a veteran detective with the Los Angeles Police Department’s gang unit.

    Maybe he’s suspected of being an accessory after the fact by concealing or misrepresenting information that he had about a murder.

    Being arrested is not the same thing as being guilty — unless you’re Bush or Cheney, and then you’re guilty without even being charged.

  • Also arrested in the Southland today were Yanira Escalante, 33, of Los Angeles, and Josue Martinez, 33, who was taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport.

    In Las Vegas, FBI agents arrested Hugo Bolanos, 34, of Las Vegas, Eimiller said.

    These arrested today were scheduled to make their initial appearances before a magistrate in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles this afternoon, Eimiller said.

    The four were among two dozen people named in the federal indictment. One of the defendants, Eric Salazar, recently was killed in the Southland.

    The following 16 were already in custody:

    Jose Alfaro, 31;
    Edwin Arias, 36;
    Juan Cendejas, 34;
    Carlos Cuentas, 34;
    Juan Fuentes, 30;
    Brian Giron, 20;
    Jose Gonzalez, 30;
    Paul Cortez Jovel, 35;
    Luis Lazo, 33, being held in El Salvador;
    Oscar Linares, 34;
    Pedro Lopez, 27;
    Juan Mancilla, 40;
    Kelvin Melgar, 29;
    Fernando Morales, 25;
    David Rivera; and
    Guillermo Vasquez-Landaver, 40.
    Three men remain at large: Edwin Navas, 33; Ruben Pineda, 36, of Los Angeles; and Marvin Vasquez, 28, of Hollywood.

    The 16-count federal indictment is the first in Los Angeles alleging racketeering against the MS-13 gang, Eimiller said.

  • Named on the indictment was Alex Sanchez, executive director of the anti-gang Homies Unidos, for allegedly conspiring to commit a 2006 murder separate from the alleged conspiracy that targeted LAPD Dectective Frank Flores.
    The October racketeering indictment unsealed Wednesday said the crimes stretched back 15 years. Officials said the arrests followed a three-year investigation, the Los Angeles Times reported.

  • Woody,

    Do you know what a non-sequitur is? What does Bush and Cheney have to do with this? Maybe you ought to work on having a thought without Bush or Cheney rambling around in your brain.

  • When Mario Corona, from Communities In Schools was arrested was everyone who Celeste knows in this field – stunned ?

  • 3:47 pm,
    Back off, Talk Boy! Woody’s started the Leona Helmsley School of Tax Preparation.

  • And here I thought Connie Rice was a civil rights lawyer? She might as well as be the chair of the lynch mob. Why the heck would she say, “…she had wondered about Sanchez because he had been absent from community meetings aimed at reducing MS-13 violence.” So much for innocent till proven guilty. Connie, you mention Alex in all your speeches yet you bury him at the moment he needs us most. Shame on you!

  • RICO,

    So Frank Girardot read the same indictment that I did. And this proves what exactly????

    And you personally know about Alex Sanchez’ guilt or innocence how? Just curious.

  • Dear I WONDER:

    In answer to your question, “When Mario Corona, from Communities In Schools was arrested was everyone who Celeste knows in this field – stunned ?”

    No. I was very, very sad.

    Mario was someone with a great many fine qualities and accomplishments. And his arc of recovery was, as it turned out, four steps forward, three and a half back. (Like many people trying to change their lives.)

    But the step back was something that he couldn’t afford.

    Did I disbelieve the charge against Mario?


    Was it heartbreaking?


    What’s your point?

  • The indictment listed Sanchez as a “shot caller.” Is that like being a CEO?

    I didn’t know that so many aliases existed.

    Do you think that the gang forgot to pay taxes on their profits?

  • No, Woody, this is not Obama’s FBI and Justice Department. From NBC:

    The indictment is the result of a three-year investigation by the FBI and the LAPD that focused on the leadership of multiple “cliques” of the MS-13 gang, from 1995 to the present, Eimiller said.

  • You guys who are in shock need to wake the hell up!!!!! So many community members in the areas where these gang prevention guys work all over LA will tell you they never leave their homies. It’s a way of life for them. They have so many people fooled its crazy to those of us who know better. To the haters who will say LAPD or Feds framed him, that’s bullshit. They are so close to having consent decree lifted they are not going to screw up for a gang member. These gang members are pros at playing victims and you guys eat it up so when this happens you’re in shock. Many of us are saying its about time.

  • After reading numerous articles concerning the shocking arrest of Homies Unidos “Alex Sanchez” and the almost unanimous disbelief by everyone associated with Sanchez, talking to people in the LA County govt agency’s that deal with the gang problem who tell me that Sanchez had one of the most effective prevention and assistance programs going in the LA area, witnessing over the years the vicious attacks on other gang prevention programs, and especially the continuous attempts at slimming and discrediting the great Father Greg Boyle and his good works, I did a little research, something stinks.
    Being old enough to have experienced the sixties political movement and civil rights battles, I recalled the FBI’s murderous and deceitful attacks on many citizens and groups demanding change, sure enough I found the website below that details the scummy tactics and techniques the FBI used with the COINTELPRO program that has been supposedly retired. Hmmmm, maybe not, click up the website below, resemble anything current?

    COINTELPRO: The FBI’s Covert Action Programs Against American …
    COINTELPRO is the FBI acronym for a series of covert action programs directed against …..


    OF THE






    COINTELPRO is the FBI acronym for a series of covert action programs directed against domestic groups. In these programs, the Bureau went beyond the collection of intelligence to secret action defined to “disrupt” and “neutralize” target groups and individuals. The techniques were adopted wholesale from wartime counterintelligence, and ranged from the trivial (mailing reprints of Reader’s Digest articles to college administrators) to the degrading (sending anonymous poison-pen letters intended to break up marriages) and the dangerous (encouraging gang warfare and falsely labeling members of a violent group as police informers).

  • So, Roger Jacobs, if this isn’t Obama’s FBI and Justice Department, then I guess 9-11 wasn’t Bush’s fault.

    At some point, Obama and the Left has to grow up and start taking responsibility rather than saying that they “inherited problems” and are helpless. I have never seen such Presidential finger-pointing at others and dodging duties as Obama does. No wonder some are calling him the “Explainer-in-Chief.”

    BTW, did you notice how fast the charges were dropped against the Black Panthers who stood in front of a polling place with weapons…even though the Justice Department had already won the case! With that speed and record, Obama probably has Presidential pardons already written out for the MS-13 gang leaders.

  • Transcript from KPCC – Connie Rice: He [Alex Sanchez] was not willing to help gang intervention workers who were getting targeted by gangs that he had relationships with. That’s always a sign that they are backing away from the intervention role.

    Close scrutiny of the media coverage reveals an definite disposition to judge and convict Alex even before his trial begins. For example, almost all of the coverage follows uncritically the logic laid out in the indictment. No attempt is made to notice that, for example, Alex is not named in most of the 66-page indicment. Other plaintiff’s names appear throughout.

    Although the story of Alex Sanchex touches upon people and issues-immigrants, gangs, Salvadorans- that are explained-and dealt with- simplistically, dangerously, the leadership of Los Angeles must speak out in defense not just of Alex, but of a fundamental principal of a just society: that you are innocent until proven otherwise.

  • Celeste, I’m glad you’re back. You looked very pretty in your new dress in your Facebook pictures. I was telling reg how lucky we are to have you host this site and that we should respect you by always speaking cordially in our exchanges. Welcome home and congratulations on your Master’s degree!

  • In America, you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty without a reasonable doubt. I believe most of the times our opinions and prejudgements should be silent, especially in cases of things we don’t know, and cultural ties that we are not familiar with. Also, it is important not to lump all intervention workers together. There are bad and good in everything and at every place. A bad Preacher, Police Oficer, D.A., Judge, or Intervention Worker would be a bad hamburger maker or blogger. In other words,bad people are bad people. I pray for Alex and wish him strength until the truth comes out. Think! It may just be that Alex’s mission is to spread the word in prison. Who knows? Wherever it is, we know Alex will do a fantastic job!

  • “The indictment listed Sanchez as a “shot caller.” Is that like being a CEO? I didn’t know that so many aliases existed. Do you think that the gang forgot to pay taxes on their profits?”

    Dear Woody,
    Yes, it is like being a CEO … Of your _own_ company. But, there are many companies out there!
    Yes, many aliases Woody … Some of the less popular are, Sneezy, Sleepy, Doc, Happy, and Bashful.
    And as for, Did they forget to pay taxes on their profits? Do not be too amusing Woody. I am very surprised that you even wasted time on typing that out.
    Finally Woody, do not meddle in the affairs of shot callers, for they are quick to anger! And also, Ms. Fremon will order your brain scan records to be released!

  • I think it would be interesting to see what is revealed (or not) in those brain scan records, Celeste.

  • Farrah Fawcett…Michael Jackson…Come on everyone…Maybe we’ll get lucky and Kim Jong Il will fall ill.

  • Celeste, any timing observations on Villagarosa (sp, sorry?) dropping out of Cali Governor’s race?

  • This is outrageous. The only thing he is accused of, which those of you who read the indictment would know, is being in on a phone call where the murder of the victim was DISCUSSED. Which is a totally legitimate thing for a gang outreach worker to be doing. They have to find out about what is going down to intervene. If their intervention is not successful, should they be indicted? When your tactics at work misfire, are you locked up on federal charges carrying a possible life sentence? There is no duty on a citizen to alert the police as to a crime they believe will happen. The alleged murder took place in El Salvador. How could Sanchez have stopped it even if he tried? Much as it irritates them, the feds CANNOT turn everyone in the world into their personal snitch. The sick part is that he is still at risk of going down because of how broad and vague RICO is. This is a travesty of justice and destined to be a PR nightmare for the FBI and LAPD, still sulking from their previous unsuccessful attempts to get Sanchez out of the way. Ask yourself this question: is Watts a safer place with or without Alex? Also keep in mind what a risk he faces in jail as a man who attempts to turn people away from the gang life. He won asylum from El Salvador because of risks to his life from gangs on this basis. Not only his freedom but also his life are at risk.

  • Hey Woody, Summerhill just called you out pal. What you gonna do? And “Summerhill”, just so ya know who your talkin to, your talkin to an ex-Marine here, in Woody. Ya both talk a lot shit.

  • The guilt of the silent … By remaining silent they covered up the crimes, assisted the offenders and …

  • It’s all the gavacho robber barrons fault that Alex Sanchez was involved with gangs in the first place. It’s not his fault, it’s the gavachos.

  • Another black eye for all you 1960s White liberal touchy touchy feely feely Cholo hug a thug – gangster undercover lovers. The smile on my face to watch Sanchez cried like a little girl in court. The world is getting so much nicer by the minute.

  • Vineland Boyz
    Florence Rico
    San Fer Rico
    Van Nuys Gang Injunction
    VHG13 Rico
    18th St Rico (Big weenie, Isaac Guillen, is crying like a little girl too).
    MS-13 Rico
    Who is next? Flip a coin!
    Look at the bright side of this – the homies will have some new material for the upcoming poem reading….que no?

  • This reminds me of the time a lot of people “African Americans” believed OJ was innocent and I saw fights and violence if you didn’t agree with that assessment. Years later now those same people say deep down inside they knew he was guilty but didnt’ want to believe it. I think this is the same for Sanchez. Maybe so many people wanted to believe he was doing the right thing and turning his life around they are in shock. Ask yourselves of all the gang members you know how many actually have changed their lives and stayed completely away for the gang culture? Many of my friends will tell you none they know of and they know of many.

  • Luis Rodriguez comes to mind immediately. Ever read Always Running? People DO and CAN change. It’s difficult, but not miraculous.

  • I am tired of saying this…but most of you are just posting to post. I know Alex and I know his work. I have seen him travel the country talking about gang intervention. I have never heard an ill-word from him about cops, even the cops that actually set him up. If anything, just last year we sat dwon and he talked to me about the need to engage cops more with an open mind and build their support for intervention. And he would tell me the cops that he met that really cared about the community. I BELIEVE that Alex is innocent but I KNOW that his work is genuine and not a front. I have seen his hours, his dedication and that of the entire Homies staff. Because of the severity of the indictment it is natural for rumors and speculation to fly. But DO NOT tarnish Alex’s work or the work of Homies Unidos. They are the best allies of anyone that actually wants to see ppl leave the gang lifestyle.

  • Thanks, Voice of Reason. (You too, Leslie and Summerhill.)

    Janet, without stopping to ponder for a moment, I can name 20 people who are completely reformed, who were deeply gang involved, changed their lives, and haven’t been anywhere near that world for ten years. Then I can name another 20 after that. And so on. This notion that no one can reform is completely preposterous.

  • it would be a lie if i state that i agree with most of the comments in which have been posted in this website reguarding mr.alex sanchez arrest.i know mr.sanchez personally yet i cant disagree with the fbi due to my ignorance of the facts pertaining to this indictment.there will always exist adversity among people.thats something in which us humans have no control over.i believe that in order for justice to be served,everyone should avoid speculating about this matter and treat this issue with great the way,i also know detective frank flores.his passion to exterminate ms-13 scumbags is relevant to his brothers demise caused by an ms-13 gangmember.and yes mr.frank flores has ties to the crs-13 gang.does that make him a role model similar to mr alex sanchez?i will not incline to neither party involved in this issue.prosecution has the burden of proof as to the fact as well as defense having the burden to produce evidence in rebuttal prosecutions allegations.we are too shy of knowledge in respect to this issue due to the early stage of the commencement of this indictment.

  • Having seen the corruption inside of Homeland Security and what they did to my husband, I do not believe anything the FBI publishes any longer. Having studied documents doctored by them for covert operations like Operation Condor, I KNOW they manufacture evidence and testimony to destroy human beings they target. Let me demonstrate the inner workings of our justice system in the following links:

    One can say this was 30 years ago, but the U.S. climate of covert lies has resurfaced. So here are some more recent operations…in 2001.

    I met Alex Sanchez, but I did not know him, because I volunteered at Homies Unidos for awhile. I do know that he held my husband’s life in his hands had he actually been with Mara Salvatrucha, because he had some of the most private information possible about his case, including his immigration number and name. Had Alex been what they represent, I’m certain my husband and/or I would be dead by now.

    I also know that my husband’s past affiliation with this gang followed him to several countries, where some odd photos from 12 years before surfaced attaching him to this gang, even after he had left several years prior. A member of Mexico’s SIEDO investigating his application for residency there showed my husband these photos, which he had obtained from the FBI. Now, my question is WHY would the FBI track ex members of a gang from country to country if their aim wasn’t to persecute them for ever belonging?

    As to the question of anyone ever leaving a gang…Judge Joe Brown comes to mind, and my husband as well. Simply, people grow up and age out. They meet women they fall in love with and they want positive futures, and they are simply tired of running from the law.

    I have no love of MS-13! They are murdering deported members who try to leave that gang, and that seems like forcing slavery to me. I don’t know Alex enough to determine if he’s a good person or evil. But I know he was good to us, held our secrets in tact, and offered help to us when we needed it to get us through POW conditions that Homeland Security forced upon us. I know if he had been with MS-13, we would be dead by now, because he knew EXACTLY where I lived, where my husband was, and nothing happened. And I know that the FBI and Homeland Security has corruption within the ranks of these organizations that makes MS-13 look tame in comparison. Drugging my husband before his immigration hearings, holding him in complete isolation for 3 years during his hearings, purposely losing his legal files and CDs before many hearings, using every mental torture tactic since the holocaust. And I know that they did everything they could to drive him insane and destroy my life as well. What they did was motivate me to write a book instead. And during his hearing when they questioned me about his case, the state’s attorney was more interested in the book I was writing, than my testimony about what happened to us. I assume the idiot was trying to intimidate me. Two book publishers are reviewing this book as I write this, although they could turn it down still. I’m not intimidated by the Department of Justice, but reading about Alex Sanchez, I’m wondering if I should be.

    I know he was very compassionate about helping us with our case. I know

  • Jesus isn’t around, let’s worship Alex Sanchez and forget those his orders killed! People who are familiar with the way the Church and State protect their losers are not surprised that they have managed to convince many gullible people that poor Mr.Sanchez could NEVER be guilty of anything. He is a poster boy for failed privatization. The Church and State stand behind their favorite gangsters, claiming that they are saints, instead of professional provacateurs and informants and worse. Alex Sanchez is sorry he got caught. Eventually, the course of his initiations must include the murder of an American citizen on Ameican soil. He’s laughed off his crimes so far. But even “dumb” Americans have a limit. Even the most corrupt and powerful organizations on Earth cannot protect evil forever. Even if he “beats” this charge, Mr.Sanchez will never control himself. Eventually, he will turn to carrying a weapon to buttress his renowned manhood….Even “dumb” Americans have a limit. This country is run by laws, not the bloody little hands of gangsters.

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