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Gang Used Homeboy Industries As A Cover, Feds Say

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Homeboy Industries, a nonprofit that works to help former gang members move on with their lives, was allegedly used by some of their clients to hide illegal activity associated with the Mexican mafia.An indictment released last Thursday said that the Mexican Mafia had united three rival Northeast Los Angeles gangs, the L.A. Times reports. The three gangs are known as Frogtown, the Rascals and Toonerville, and they control areas in Atwater Village, Glendale and Northeast L.A. Authorities say members of the new gang conglomerate likened itself to a "New World Order" or the United Nations, and that the gang worked to control the local drug trade and sometimes arranged for enemies to be killed or punished. Chief Assistant U.S. Atty. Robert Dugdale said that one gang leader who didn't want to go along with the proposed peace treaty was shot eight times before he agreed to go along with the plan.

Twenty-two people so far have been charged with racketeering, conspiring to kill rivals and extorting money from drug dealers. Authorities say that some of them were using Homeboy Industries to hide criminal activities. According to the indictment, one man, Santos "Slim" Zepeda, indicated that he used Homeboy Industries in 2013 as a place to meet a drug dealer who owed the gang 'taxes' on drug sales. Another man allegedly wrapped a .38-caliber gun in a Homeboy T-shirt and gave it to another gang member while on Homeboy property.

Carlos Canino with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in L.A. told the Times he hadn't seen rival gangs unite in such a manner "since the riots."

Homeboy Industries issued a statement following the arrests:

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"As a gang rehabilitation center, we exist to support all those who want to turn away from criminal pasts and transform their lives. We understand that while we successfully help a majority of our clients, a small percentage attempt, but fail, to make that transformation. When people relapse we are truly heartbroken, but we remain committed to creating healthier and safer communities through our work. We are also saddened by the allegations that inappropriate activities may have taken place in the safe haven we have created. We will vigorously investigate these items and when contacted by law enforcement, we will fully cooperate with any inquiries."

While an unfortunate blow for the nonprofit, they have and still do a lot of good in the community. Homeboy Industries was founded by Father Gregory Boyle in 2001 and works to reduce recidivism among young people who were previously in jail for gang-related activities, as well as to prevent at-risk youth from getting involved with gangs. They help their clients with job training, education, tattoo removal, counseling and legal issues. The organization also operates cafes in Chinatown and downtown L.A. Vice President Joe Biden paid a visit to Homegirl Cafe in Chinatown in January, and President Obama met with Homeboy members last July.