12 charged in Tulare County gang murders

Pedro “Pistol Pete” Sanchez
Pedro “Pistol Pete” Sanchez Tulare County Sheriff’s Department

Twelve Norteño gang members have been charged in four murders, while dozens nabbed in a sweep last week were also charged with robbery, drug possession and gang conspiracy in the largest criminal complaint ever brought in Tulare County history.

Gang leader Pedro “Pistol Pete” Sanchez, of Lindsay, isn’t charged with murder, but faces 47 counts including conspiracy to commit murder and could be sentenced to 1,000 years to life in prison if found guilty, the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office said.

His bail was set at $9 million.

In all, 52 people arrested last week in the multiagency Operation Red Sol gang sweep are named in the 437-page complaint involving 151 felony counts that was filed Monday in Tulare County Superior Court.

One defendant, Jason Ortega, 21, who was arrested Tuesday, is charged with two murders.

Three murders took place in Visalia, while the fourth involved a body that was dumped near Ivanhoe.

Phineas Alexander was shot to death on Dec. 14, 2014, while on the porch of a home on Northwest Second Street in Visalia. Alexander was not a gang member, police said. Ortega faces charges in that homicide.

Jose Cisneros was found murdered April 11 in his home in the 700 block of north Floral Street. Tommy Gonzalez, 23, Javier Godinez Jr., 20, and a 16-year-old are charged with that murder.

Rigoberto Santamaria was murdered in the 1400 block of North Highland Street. Val Ornelas, 34, Fernando Mora, 27, Victor Chavez, 20, and Fabian Barajas, 21, have been charged.

Both Cisneros and Santamaria had been involved in gangs in the past, Visalia police said.

The body of Marcos Villegas was found on the side of Road 152 south of Ivanhoe Drive. Ortega, Johnny “J5” Garcia, 22, Sebastian Barajas, 20, Abraham “Sasquatch” Ortiz, 20, and Patricia Flores, 23, have been charged in that homicide.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold