Texas Syndicate, a criminal organization whose members and associates engage in acts of violence, including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, extortion and narcotics distribution.
The Texas Syndicate, including its leadership, membership and associates, constitute an “enterprise” as defined by Title 18, United States Code, Section 1961(4), that is, a group of individuals associated in fact. The enterprise constitutes an ongoing organization whose members function as a continuing unit for a common purpose of achieving the objectives of the enterprise. The enterprise (hereinafter “the Texas Syndicate,” “TS,” or “the enterprise”) engages in, and its activities affected, interstate and foreign commerce.
The Texas Syndicate originated in the early 1970’s in the California prison system as a response to other prison gangs that were preying on native Texan inmates. These Texas offenders banded together for protection purposes and became known as one of the most feared prison gangs within the California prison system. After being released from California prisons these inmates returned to Texas, often returning to violence and re-entering the prison system. As a result, members were able to expand their control throughout the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison system. Since the late 1970’s, the TDCJ has seen a gradual increase in TS-related activities within the system and the Texas Syndicate remains one of the main security threats within the TDCJ.
TS rules are strictly enforced, primarily resulting in violent attacks on and executions of TS members who violate their rules. Furthermore, that degree of control has carried to communities in which TS members reside. Once out of prison, many TS members continue to commit violent offenses, narcotics-related offenses, and other illegal activities in the area of the country where the members are living and associating with each other.
The gang is commonly referred to as Sindicato Tejano, Ese Te, “Twisted Sister,” “Teresa Sanchez” and “Cuernos”. TS membership is comprised predominantly of Texas-born Mexican-American males and operates under a formal paramilitary organizational structure with a constitution and strict established rules.
Texas Syndicate members frequently refer to each other as “carnal” (brother) and maintain a distinct identity by establishing and enforcing specific TS rules, holding meetings, utilizing TS gang signs (horns), and by maintaining a close relationship with fellow gang members and their associates throughout the state. Some, but not all, TS members have TS tattoos. These tattoos commonly include “cuernos” (horns), and words containing the letters “T” and “S”. Members consider it to be an offense against the organization for a nonmember to have a TS tattoo or assert membership in the Texas Syndicate prior to becoming a full member. Although obtaining TS-related tattoos was once a common practice, some TS members now avoid obtaining tattoos in order to shield their association with the TS from law enforcement. This allows members to function with less oversight, especially within the prison system.
Members of the TS are bound by a set of strict rules which ensure loyalty to and participation in the enterprise’s criminal activities. The rules require that a member continue his participation in the organization upon his release from prison. After release from prison, a TS member is required to contact the high-ranking member in the geographical area where the released member intends to reside. No member is permitted to break away from the group. Membership is for life. Any violation of the rules may result in harsh penalties, including death. A member who violates the rules and loses favor becomes a “muleta”, a term which is used to mean “a problem.” Such a violation may result in the TS bringing its own official gang-based charges against the member who is being accused of violating the rules. The strict rules and harsh discipline governing the Texas Syndicate help insure that the organization’s members and associates function as a continuing unit despite any changes in membership.
The rules of the Texas Syndicate prohibit the distribution of information regarding fellow members to law enforcement. Texas Syndicate members, therefore, generally attempt to conceal their association with the TS from law enforcement. If several TS members commit a crime, it is not uncommon for one member to demonstrate his loyalty by taking responsibility for the crime in order to shield other TS brothers from the attention of law enforcement. TS members will also assist a fellow member in this pending criminal case. A TS member will attempt to discover the evidence that will be used against the fellow member or discover the names of the witness of witnesses who will provide testimony in trial.
The TS rules provide that the TS is to come before family. Carnales make sure that the rules are known. It is understood that members and prospects of the TS may receive a telephone call and instructions to commit a crime including homicide for the Texas Syndicate at any time. Regardless of the member’s friendship or association with the victim, the orders are to be carried out since the rules mandate that the TS comes first, even before family. The soldiers and “prospectos” (prospects) are often used to carry out violent TS business. Sometimes, members who have a problem or “muleta” that they need to work off in order to achieve better status with the TS are called upon to perform the ordered task. The task would range from a serious assault to murder. The TS will not hesitate to kill anyone who interferes with the business of the gang or who commits a violation of Texas Syndicate rules.
Members of the Texas Syndicate regularly hold meetings (sometimes referred to as “barbeques” or “juntas”) where members discuss and vote on important decisions. Prospects are generally not allowed to make decisions or be present inside the meetings and are required to stand outside when such decisions are made. However, prospects stand ready to carry out decisions made at these meetings as this would help improve their status in the organization.
Members of the Texas Syndicate maintain regular communication with members who have been imprisoned. Such communication is often through letters and telephone calls. Coded language is frequently utilized in order to mislead law enforcement as to the true message contained in the letters or telephone calls. This coded language is often hidden in an otherwise meaningless letter or telephone call. Examples of coded language indicating that someone is to be eliminated include putting an “X” over the name of the individual or by referring to this targeted individual as “X.” Additionally, TS members will state that this targeted individual has a “green light,” or has been designated as a “muleta” (problem). A member who has fallen out of favor might also be referred to in the feminine form. Rival gang members may also be referred to in the feminine form. If a muleta is ordered, the TS will refer to this muleta or order as having a “green light.”
The Texas Syndicate’s control of those in prison is so far-reaching that members both in and out of prison follow a procedure by which the TS ensure that members are not and have not been police informants. The procedure is referred to as “clearing” a TS member or “running the lights.” Members in prison were “cleared” by exhibiting documentation such as plea agreements, presentence investigation reports, judgments or other case-related document, to enable higher-ranking members to verify that the person to be “cleared” did not cooperate with law enforcement.
Coded language is commonly utilized during drug related phone calls. Cocaine might be referred to by many names including “sheet rock,” “girls,” “teenager,” “teener,” “french fries,” “bacon,” “white shirt” and “flour.” Marijuana might be referred to by names including “elbows,” “feed,” “stuff for horses,” “hay for horses,” “green” and “grass.” Methamphetamines were commonly referred to as “ice,” “crystal,” “windshields,” “the cold stuff” and “yellow.” Suppliers and customers also use abbreviated numbers to indicate quantity and price, such as an order for “a whole onion” that costs at least “7 bucks,” meaning that an order of an ounce of cocaine would cost $700. When cocaine is available, the supplier might tell his customers that he had “work” available. The quality of cocaine is frequently discussed in terms of how “pretty” or “how good the girls are.” Payments for drugs are often called “receipts” and “cheese.”
The power of the Texas Syndicate is utilized to create fear and intimidation that shields members, ensures the timely payment of drug debts, and prevents the theft of member’s drugs or money. Violent retribution is an important activity of the enterprise. Such retribution helps enforce loyalty of the organization which is necessary for ensuring the smooth running of the drug distribution business as well as maintaining discipline within the enterprise. Members and prospects are made aware that the affiliation with the TS requires their assistance with the criminal activity of the enterprise when called upon to do so and is an important step toward obtaining higher status in the organization.
Purposes of the Enterprise
The purpose of the enterprise include the following: a) Enriching the members and associates of the enterprise through, among other things, distribution of narcotics, extortion and robbery; b) Preserving and protecting the power, territory and profits of the enterprise through the use of intimidation, violence, threats of violence, assaults and murder; c) Promoting and enhancing the enterprise and its members and associates activities; d) Maintaining a powerful organization that can protect members and provide financial opportunities through criminal activity; e) Keeping victims in fear of the enterprise and in fear of its members and associates through threats of violence and violence.
Pursuant to this objective, members act to protect each other and to build a strong, disciplined organization through intimidation and violent retribution against outsiders and through strict and harsh discipline of members and associates who violate the rules and goals of the enterprise.