Calipatria State Prison

SACRAMENTO — Sixteen members and associates of a prison-based gang have been charged after a long-running investigation into drug trafficking and murders inside and outside of California’s prisons, the federal judicial system reported.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday, June 6, nine defendants have been arrested on federal racketeering and other charges for extensive, organized criminal activity from within California’s most secure prisons. The allegations include murders, drug trafficking, and other violent crimes. The complaint charges California State prison inmates Ronald Yandell, 56; Daniel “Danny” Troxell, 66; William Sylvester, 51; Travis Burhop, 46; Brant Daniel, 44; Donald Mazza, 48; Pat Brady, 48; Michael Torres, 55; and Jason Corbett, 47. At the outset of this investigation, Yandell, Troxell, Sylvester, Burhop, Torres, and Corbett were all serving life sentences for murder.

Five other individuals were also arrested as part of the investigation.

“Today, we are announcing a significant blow to the leadership of a violent criminal enterprise run from inside California prisons,” U.S. Attorney Scott stated in the press release. “Despite the incarceration of its leaders in the state’s most secure prisons, the Aryan Brotherhood has maintained its deadly influence over members, associates, and others both inside and outside prison walls. The charges allege multiple murders of those who run afoul of the gang, as well as an active drug trafficking operation that spans multiple counties and states. The prosecution of these individuals, if convicted, will help to dismantle and weaken this dangerous organization.”

“This extensive investigation revealed the violent underbelly of a race-based prison gang and organized crime enterprise operating behind bars. Agents exposed Aryan Brotherhood operations providing law enforcement opportunities to successfully intervene and save lives,” stated DEA Special Agent in Charge Chris Nielsen, in the report. “This case demonstrates our unwavering commitment to combat drug-related gang violence not only on the streets, but also behind prison walls.”

According to court documents, between 2011 and 2016 Aryan Brotherhood (AB) members and associates engaged in racketeering activity, committing multiple acts involving murder and drug trafficking offenses. 

Authorities say Yandell and Sylvester, cellmates at Folsom prison since 2015, oversaw a large heroin and methamphetamine trafficking operation. Along with Burhop, an inmate at Calipatria State Prison, the prisoners coordinated the flow of drugs within California and to Nevada, South Dakota, and Missouri. 

If convicted, the defendants face a range of maximum sentences, including up to life in prison. The facts outlined in the complaint could trigger the federal death penalty for several defendants, and a number of the defendants also face a range of mandatory minimum sentences of five to 10 years in prison. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program was established in 1982 to conduct comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.

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