<b>AT STAKE:</b>  Raymond Macias is looking at life without the possibility of parole for gang-related kidnapping, extortion, and torture charges.

daniel dreifuss/santa maria times

AT STAKE: Raymond Macias is looking at life without the possibility of parole for gang-related kidnapping, extortion, and torture charges.

‘Big Homie’ or Bumbling Gang Boss?

Santa Maria Jurors to Determine Who the Real Ray Macias Is

Thursday, June 19, 2014
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When Raymond Macias, a well-known leader of the East Side Krazies street gang, was arrested last June on torture and extortion charges, law enforcement officials crowed they’d just nabbed Mister Big, or as he would be described throughout the four-week criminal trial that just concluded in Santa Maria, “the Big Homie.” At the time of his arrest, Macias was described as a major drug lord and Santa Barbara County’s top tax collector for the Sureños, a fearsome Southern California prison gang with connections to the even more fearsome Mexican Mafia.

Specifically, he was charged with kidnapping Lompoc drug dealer and gang member Stephen Mendibles when Mendibles failed to make good on a $1,100 debt he owed Macias. In her final words to the jury, prosecuting attorney Anne Bramsen sought to reinforce this theme. “Mr. Macias condones violent behavior,” she said. “He engages in violent behavior.”

In stark contrast, Macias’s attorney, Michael Scott, spent the better part of two hours portraying his client as a bumbling, stumbling, “weak” gang boss. Macias, said Scott, gave deadbeat drug dealers too many chances, making repeated “courtesy visits” to those who owed, and often paying off their debts out of his own pocket. Yes, Scott admitted, Macias was a drug dealer, a Sureño gang member, and even a tax collector. But he should not be confused with Tony Montana, the bloodthirsty drug dealer of Scarface fame. Nor should he be equated with the calculating cunning of Machiavelli or the corporate ruthlessness of Henry Ford. What kind of criminal mastermind, Scott wondered, left incriminating text messages on his cell phone or kept receipts in his apartment of Western Union payments he’d wired to the Mexican Mafia?

Both sides agree that early last January, Macias put out the word he wanted “to talk” with Mendibles. Both sides agree that after two courtesy visits, Mendibles went into hiding. Eventually, he was found by members of the Lompoc gang, VLP, and taken to a garage, where it was understood he was to be beaten. The beating was part of a gang practice known as “checking,” in which those who violate protocol are soundly thrashed by a larger group of gang members. They are expected, however, to fight back. In this case, Mendibles quickly got the better of his attackers. Luis Almanza, an alleged enforcer with gang ties from Texas, picked up a hatchet and whacked Mendibles twice, once on the arm and once on the side. (Almanza was also on trial for extortion and torture.) Mendibles, who never sought medical treatment for his injuries, testified his arm remains injured from the attack.

All sides agree Macias was not present for any of this and only arrived 90 minutes later. He untied Mendibles and let him go, though not before notifying Mendibles he had three days to heal, after which he would be “poked” with a knife. Many of the gang members who participated in the attack testified they were acting on what they believed to be Macias’s orders. It came out during the trial that Macias’s younger brother had been recently checked by Mendibles, sustaining a fractured cheek and broken arm in the process.

Scott countered that Macias never ordered any such thing and was “shocked” that Almanza “went off the rails.” Neither a VLP nor a Sureño, Almanza reportedly lacked the gang standing to strike Mendibles in a formal checking. Likewise, Scott pointed out that those who testified against Macias made deals with the prosecution to get more lenient sentences. He also noted that Philip Lopez, who was involved in the “checking,” harbored a serious grudge against Mendibles, who reportedly had sex with Lopez’s girlfriend when Lopez was in prison.

In closing arguments, Scott sought to persuade the jury that Macias could never have known that by indicating an interest in merely “talking” with Mendibles, he would trigger such an improbable chain of events. “That’s not reasonably foreseeable,” he insisted. Improbable, yes, Bramsen retorted, but quite possible and easily imaginable. At the time, she noted, two North County gang members had recently been murdered for not paying taxes on their drug sales. Perhaps her single most damning evidence was a video of Macias speaking to his girlfriend while in county jail, saying ​— ​in gang sign language ​— ​“He was there when I had [Mendibles].”

In the past year, law enforcement officials have expressed concern that the Mexican Mafia has emerged as a more serious presence in Santa Barbara’s scene. That was certainly one of the key issues raised during the four-week trial on the City of Santa Barbara’s proposed gang injunction, a trial that concluded three weeks ago. In that trial, prosecutors made much of testimony by longtime gang member Arthur Nevarez, who claimed that the reduction in violent gang activity throughout the South Coast reflected the wishes and direction of the Mexican Mafia. Nevarez, now an informant who participated in an anti-gang documentary, testified gang violence is bad for business because it attracts law enforcement attention.

Macias was named in the city’s proposed gang injunction, and though he was not present in Judge Colleen Sterne’s courtroom, his name was frequently invoked by prosecutors to buttress Nevarez’s claim. At the time of his arrest, Macias was on the payroll of Palabra, a high-profile nonprofit organization led by former gang members that is dedicated to reducing gang violence. Law enforcement looked with keen distrust at Palabra because its leaders exposed informants, instructed at-risk teens not to cooperate with police, and did not urge them to renounce gang membership, just gang violence.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

So, Macias' attorney would like the jury to believe Macias is simply a dumb rat-faced drug dealer?

whatsinsb (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2014 at 9:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Santa Maria is not a safe place anymore. The gang scene in SB is nothing compared to Santa Maria. Why the press doesn't cover Santa Maria gang activity or advocate for action there is beyond me. That city needs help. The city cops alone can't handle it alone. The FBI really needs to take a look at Santa Maria. County Sheriffs appear to be disengaged.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2014 at 10:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If he is connected to the Sureños and the Mexican Mafia. Why can't they get him on the RICO Act? Lock em all away and through away the key. Better yet. Why spend the $ to house them. How about a 5 cent bullet to the head!

JoyousJeff (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2014 at 11:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Forget about the drug charges, they're meaningless, everybody does drugs (there, loony should be happy now). If you're going to nail this slimeball on ANYTHING, it should be on the assaults, terrorism, intimidation and thievery he has committed in his tenure as a gang member.

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2014 at 12:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

blah I certainly don't condone violence, but you might ask yourself why this violence occurred in the first place.

It was over a drug debt for $1,100. Let's analyze that for a moment. First of all, the actual cost to produce $1,100 worth of drugs is probably about $20. The only reason the actual value of the drugs is so high is because of the drug enforcement and artificial scarcity from that enforcement.

Do you think he would have gone and tortured that guy over a $20 or $40 drug debt?

Secondly, if drugs were legal and somebody owed a large drug debt then they could be taken to court. The only reason drug dealers hurt or kill people with drug debts is because violence is the only recourse, they can't use the court system because they are involved in illicit activity.

I don't understand why we make policies that lead people into making these bad decisions.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2014 at 1:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

'drug dealers too many chances, making repeated “courtesy visits” to those who owed, and often paying off their debts out of his own pocket '

What a benevolent thug. The Robin Hood of the hood. He's too stupid to realize his own attorney is calling him a dumbass.

lawdy (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2014 at 2:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey, it's a system YOUR drug laws created lawdy..

And it's also a great argument against blah's whole theory about how these guys want to be bad and do bad things. If he wanted to be bad and do such bad things, then when his boss gave him permission to go collect debts and be a thug, why did he pay their debts off instead of being a violent thug? In fact, I know a lot of Christians who give that precise analogy to what Jesus Christ did in the atonement, he took on our debts and imperfections and foisted them all upon himself. So whether you are Christian or not, this guy had some Christ-like qualities.

Maybe he wasn't the greatest guy, but doesn't that sort of show that he didn't want to be a violent thug and maybe the reason he was so caught up in it all was out of desperation?

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2014 at 2:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Umm loon, he paid the debts because he's responsible to his bosses for those under him. Then he had to collect.

I'm surprised you are naive to think he was just giving them a break. The only thing broken were limbs.

In desperation loon, he tatted up his neck and head with gang symbols.

lawdy (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2014 at 2:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this."

Albert Einstein on prohibition (alcohol)

Get. It. Thru. Your. Head. Not. Hard.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 19, 2014 at 6:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

loonpt - "For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law" is not so much "passing laws which cannot be enforced." What would you say about a wanna-be king that goes around and writes orders/laws he knows Congress (the representatives of the people) would not pass?

whatsinsb (anonymous profile)
June 20, 2014 at 8:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Huh? Are you really posing that question to an anarchist?

Government, morally, can only prevent people from affecting other people's rights. So government can create laws against theft, assault, polluting others' property and fraud. Those are all things we have the right to protect ourselves against, so in a sense an arrangement with government to provide those services, as long as it is voluntary, is compatible with anarchist philosophy.

Government however should not create laws against consensual activities, whether economic or otherwise. Kidnapping somebody for using or selling drugs and putting them in a prison is no more moral than a serial killer kidnapping somebody and putting them in a cage in their basement. Police do this EVERY DAY, they act like serial killers out on the street.

We really need to re-think what the role of government ought to be in this country.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 20, 2014 at 10:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Equating police officers with serial killers instantly revokes your seat at the table of adults. It tragically distorts your final comment, which might otherwise be a point of agreement between reasonable people.

RadiantHeat (anonymous profile)
June 21, 2014 at 8:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

From the sound of all this, Big Homie needs to go to the Big House for good. End of this chapter

Barron (anonymous profile)
June 24, 2014 at 9:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Not so Big Dummy is going to prison.... buh-bye

notahomebum (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2014 at 12:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Equating police officers with serial killers instantly revokes your seat at the table of adults."

You're right, serial killers are much more selective and discreet, so comparing police officers to serial killers really gives serial killers a bad name. Police officers go around kidnapping innocent non-violent people all day, every day right out in public, that is much worse than serial killers.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2014 at 1:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Equating police officers with serial killers instantly revokes your seat at the table of adults."

"The Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Department has had 40 police shootings since 2010. 26 of them led to suspect deaths, prompting the United States Department of Justice to issue a report critical of the agency’s use of force.

Saturday, protesters petitioning for policy changes regarding the departments use of force employed a unique tactic. A mock trail of controversial Albuquerque police Chief Gorden Eden."

"As a result of increasing public pressure, the Police Department has announced some new changes. Among them is an order that officers stop shooting at moving vehicles."

Not a bad idea, although there are some situations that may warrant shooting at a moving vehicle this would have prevented the injuries of Weldon Fewell who was shot by police in his truck on the Patterson freeway overpass and is now paralyzed.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
June 25, 2014 at 4:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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