SAN DIEGO – An Escondido man was sentenced to 35 years in prison today, Friday, Oct. 25, for his role in a network of drug distribution and crimes of violence.
Rudy Espudo, 41, was the lead defendant in a major organized-crime prosecution involving a Mexican Mafia prison gang.
He was convicted in August 2012 of conspiracy to distribute narcotics — cocaine and methamphetamine — and brandishing a gun during a violent crime in connection with his duties in overseeing the activities of gang members throughout much of northern San Diego County.
The length of the prison term handed down by U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez reflected his importance to the Mexican Mafia, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Espudo engaged in drug trafficking and extortion, profiting from the illegal activities of Escondido, Fallbrook and San Marcos gangs that worked under his so-called protection, which he pledged to provide as long as they paid “taxes” to organized-crime bosses.
The payments allowed lower-level criminals to conduct their illicit business free from interference from the Mexican Mafia, according to court documents.
Prosecutors alleged at trial that Espudo’s power over the gangs was pervasive and dramatic. To utter his name invoked celebrity status, but to get on his bad side was to run the risk of ending up beaten and bloodied from a “green light” — an assault order from a Mexican Mafia member on a person or gang.
The case was part of “Operation Notorious County,” which in January 2012 resulted in eight indictments charging 51 people with participating in organized crime. All the defendants were convicted at trial or pleaded guilty to firearms offenses, extortion, robbery, money laundering and drug trafficking.