The Hall of Justice in San Diego. Courtesy District Attorney’s office

Extortion and other charges were filed against 19 people, mostly gang members, following a three-year investigation into the Mexican Mafia prison gang, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

The Mexican Mafia gang, also known as Eme or La Eme, operates inside and outside of prisons, ordering murders, assaults, extortion and drug trafficking, according to authorities.

The prison gang routinely sanctions murder and violent assault as a means of discipline for members, associates and rivals, authorities said.

“This gang is extremely gruesome and calculated in their violence to inspire fear and intimidation,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “This investigation has far-reaching implications across the organization and sends a message that law enforcement will protect the community from gang violence.”

The investigation revealed that incarcerated Mexican Mafia members were using facility phones, email, mail and contraband cell phones to communicate with associates who were ordered to extort victims, sell drugs and collect money on behalf of incarcerated members.

According to prosecutors, two key groups in the alleged criminal activity were identified as being led by Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate Jose “Bat” Marquez and California death row inmate Ronaldo Ayala.

As a result of Operation Emero, authorities seized $51,000 in cash as well as methamphetamine and heroin.

In addition, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Security Threat Group searched 39 prison cells and confiscated 23 contraband mobile phones and documents pertaining to Mexican Mafia business. The investigation also led to the seizure of six firearms, including an AK-47.

Defendants arrested in the takedown will be arraigned Monday in Superior Court.

—City News Service