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Sinaloa Cartel-linked meth dealer accuses corrupt California cop in bid for new trial

December 19, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Sinaloa Cartel-linked meth dealer accuses corrupt California cop in bid for new trial

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A California meth dealer, who is connected to the Sinaloa Cartel, accused a disgraced ex-police sergeant of setting him up, in a long-shot attempt to get out of prison, but information about his argument remains protected sealed order issued by a judge.

Jose Carlos “Calacas” Vega-Robles requested that a judge order a new trial for convictions on first- and second-degree murder charges in 2012, The Mercury News reported.

The charges stemmed from the 2004 murders Marcelino Guzman-Mercado, 29, who was shot in El Sobrante during a robbery attempt, and Darryl Grockett, an Aryan Brotherhood gang member whose bullet-riddled remains were found along a remote road.

Vega-Robles’ lawyers have filed several motions outlining her argument, but all have been sealed. An unknown amount of documents related to an internal affairs probe into former Richmond Sergeant Mike Wang has also been sealed. Wang was accused of taking bribes, outing an informant, and other offenses.

In 2014, authorities revealed that Wang had been terminated for “several serious policy violations” without elaborating on details.

The city of Richmond requested that the records remain sealed, but its motions in support of the order were not located in the court file and are likely also sealed.

Former Richmond Police Officer Michael Wang. (CBS)

Judge Charles “Ben” Burch revealed at a turbulent hearing that he will soon issue a ruling, but seemed skeptical of the defense argument. He at one point asked Carmela Caramango, Vega-Robles’ lawyer, if she thought there was a “grand conspiracy” against her client — who was charged by the testimony of several witnesses — and her reply was a forceful “yes.”

“(The prosecution witnesses) were living and sleeping with each other and they all had the discovery for years,” Caramango said, later noting, “This trial is about the pressure put on informants to give testimony.”

However, Burch seemed unconvinced. When Caramango said that Wang was linked to several witnesses against her client and that other cops were using the same informants, the judge shrugged his shoulders and responded, “So what?”

“You’re not going to get any argument from me that Wang was a corrupt officer; that seems well established,” Burch stated. “The question is whether he did something that could have affected the jury.”

Burch inferred, though, that some of the details that came out in the internal affairs probe — where Wang testified in his defense — added “more guilt” against Vega-Robles.

Darrell Grokett 2003, the year before he was shot and killed in a remote stretch of road in the Crockett hills.

It is an unimaginably complex case focusing on a multi-million dollar drug organization that included Jose Vega-Robles, a high-ranking Sureño gang member, his brother Sergio, a cocaine dealer who laundered money to a clothing business and purchased safe houses throughout the suburbs.

Additionally, Coby Phillips was also implicated, who was a co-founder and head of the Family Affiliated Irish Mafia who was found guilty last year of killing Grockett.

The defendants purchased meth and cocaine from members of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel — sometimes 20 to 30 pounds at a time, then sold them to lower-level dealers, typically other gang members. It wasn’t long before they caught the attention of state and federal officials, who indicted them on separate multi-felony dockets in the late 2000s, which includes murder charges.

In 2012, Sergio Vega-Robles agreed to testify against Phillips in exchange for a plea deal, but a year later he came forward with accusations that Wang had taken $120,000 in bribes from him, outed a police informant who was then shot, along with assisting with the facilitation of drug deals.

However, according to court documents, the head investigator and prosecutor in the Grockett murder — inspector Shawn Pate and senior deputy district attorney Tom Kensok — became suspicious of Wang in 2010, when they bumped into him at the Martinez jail on his way to meet Sergio Vega-Robles. It was dubious because Wang had transitioned away from the drug unit and had no involvement in the case.

Coby Phillips, 44, was convicted last year in the 2004 killing of Grockett.

In 2004, Wang was a high-ranking trafficking investigator who was working with Sergio Vega-Robles and other informants. At one point, he warned Vega-Robles that a man, Jose Hernandez, was giving information to authorities and they should “stay away.” Instead, “Jose Vega-Robles chose a different tack,” Kensok stated. Hernandez was shot several times shortly after that, but he survived.

Prosecutors only learned about the Hernandez shooting years later after a witness came forward in the Mercado-Guzman case. When the DA’s office asked police for records of the incident, there were none. They’d either never been filed, or someone had intentionally destroyed them.

Wang had been briefed on both the Grockett and Guzman-Mercado killings, and Caramango insinuated that he had obtained false testimony from several former gang members, to frame Jose Vega-Robles.

“Wang needed to protect his cash cow, which of course was Sergio,” Caramango said.

But Kensok asked why Wang, if he wanted to set up someone for murder, would pick his cash cow’s brother as the scapegoat. He also added that the lack of reports on the Hernandez incident suggested that Wang was aware that he’d messed up by warning Sergio Vega-Robles.

After the allegations surfaced, Hernandez sued the city of Richmond and was granted $700,000 in a settlement.

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