PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) — On Tuesday, the Pueblo Police Department (PPD) joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office held a press conference to discuss a five-year investigation into violent gang activity in the city.
According to authorities, 13 defendants have been arrested and charged federally, and 12 suspects arrested and charged in the state.
“The Ace Gang, at the time we began this investigation, was responsible for a large percentage of the violent crime that was happening here in Pueblo,” Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller said.
Officials say that in 2016, members of the Ace gang, also known as “Little Aces”, were responsible for 16% of charges of murder, assault, possession/distribution of narcotics and weapons. In 2021, PPD says members of the Ace gang were responsible for less than 2.5% of these crimes.
Below are the ten members of the Ace gang who are currently serving time in federal prison.
Christopher Ortiz was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to accessory after the fact. According to the plea agreement, Ortiz was a member of the Ace gang, and due to his relationship with Emilio Hall, Ortiz destroyed the gun Hall used to kill Floyd Robinson.
Emilio Hall was sentenced to 32 years in prison after pleading guilty to Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering Activity (VICAR) murder. According to the plea agreement, on June 23, 2019, Hall shot and killed Floyd Robinson in the Bessemer Park area of Pueblo in retaliation for a perceived offense against the Ace gang.
Issac Chavez was sentenced to 72 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine. According to the plea agreement, on August 30, 2019, officers encountered Chavez after he crashed his motorcycle. He had two active arrest warrants and his driver’s license was revoked. Officers found a significant amount of methamphetamine at the scene near his wrecked motorcycle. Officers also found methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine in a backpack he threw away as he fled officers on foot.
James Lovato was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine. Lovato was an associate of the Ace gang in Pueblo. According to the plea agreement, on May 21, 2019, a detective with the Pueblo Police Department’s Special Investigations Division received a tip from an unnamed source that the defendant was in possession of a large duffel bag containing pounds of methamphetamine and heroin. Arresting Lovato on an outstanding warrant and executing a search warrant at his home, law enforcement discovered he was in possession of over 300 grams of methamphetamine, 40 grams of heroin and thousands of dollars in cash.
Jose Martinez was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his plea to possession with intent to distribute heroin and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). According to the plea agreement, on August 5, 2019, law enforcement conducted an operation to arrest Martinez on a warrant related to a July 18, 2019 fight and assault at a Pueblo bar. The FBI was able to obtain a search warrant from his apartment and recovered seven firearms, approximately 3.5 pounds of heroin, approximately 6.8 ounces of cocaine, approximately 15 grams of crack, $35,000, several digital scales and a drug registry.
Joseph Bachicha was sentenced to 42 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute heroin. According to the plea agreement, on June 23, 2018, officers witnessed the defendant engaging in a hand-to-hand drug dealing. At the time of his arrest, officers found approximately 49 grams of heroin in his possession.
Joseph Wisthoff was sentenced to 66 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a firearm in pursuit of a drug trafficking felony. According to the plea agreement, on January 2, 2021, Wisthoff was observed running a red light by a Pueblo police officer. Another officer arrived on the scene and observed a firearm in plain sight in the passenger seat of Wistoff’s vehicle. The gun was used by Wisthoff as protection when he sold methamphetamine. When the vehicle was searched, officers found a digital scale, an empty bag in the center console, and a bag containing methamphetamine located between the driver’s seat and the center console, which Wisthoff intended to distribute.
Leonard Rodriguez was sentenced to 80 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. The conviction related to a search warrant executed on September 4, 2019, where police found Rodriguez in possession of 507 grams of heroin, 112 grams of methamphetamine, a firearm, numerous firearm cartridges, objects indicating drug trafficking and thousands of dollars in cash.
Maximillian Esquibel was sentenced to 58 months after a jury found him guilty of being a felon in possession of firearms.
Victor Trujillo was sentenced to 100 months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of ammunition by a prohibited person. According to the plea agreement, officers sought Trujillo to execute a state warrant for escape. Officers identified Trujillo in a vehicle and attempted a traffic stop. Trujillo evaded officers in the vehicle. Officers eventually contacted Trujillo and arrested him. Officers observed, in plain sight, a black handgun in front, the driver’s side floorboard between Trujillo’s feet. Trujillo is a convicted felon and cannot possess firearms or ammunition.
“We developed a strategy and focused on leading the gangs. If you cut off the snake’s head so to speak, you start eradicating the community and the pieces start falling apart,” the special agent said. FBI official in Denver, Michael Schneider.
US Attorney Cole Finegan said the operation took violent offenders off the streets and put them in jail for a long time.
“Our work doesn’t stop there. We will continue to hold gang members and drug dealers accountable if they break the law,” Finegan said. “We are not done here. We will continue this work and continue to work together, and when the drug dealers and the people who make and sell this poison break the law, we will be there to arrest them and prosecute them. .”
Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner said working with federal prosecutors, like Finegan’s office, is invaluable in keeping Pueblo safe and jailing criminals away from Pueblo.
“People will be taken to a federal prison whether it’s Atlanta or Alabama or wherever and that helps break up these gangs because if we send them to Buena Vista they are still in contact with their family and their criminal associates,” Chostner said.
Chief Noeller said he hopes the slew of arrests and prosecutions serve as a warning to other Pueblo gangs.
“If I was a gang member in Pueblo right now, it would be a good time to be nervous,” Noeller said.
Watch the press conference below: