LOS ANGELES (KABC) --Seven members of a Latino street gang have been charged with firebombing the homes of black families to drive them out of a Boyle Heights neighborhood in 2014, prosecutors said.
According to a 10-count federal court indictment unsealed on Thursday, the men charged were members and associates of the Big Hazard street gang.
The suspects hurled Molotov cocktails at apartments in the Ramona Gardens Housing Development in May 2014, prosecutors said. The attack was meant to "maximize damage" in homes where families, including children, were residing.
"Crimes targeting innocent people based on the color of their skin are among the most heinous crimes a community can suffer," said Eileen Decker, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. "In this case, the crime was particularly disturbing since the targets of the criminal conduct included children."
The 25-page indictment alleges that the men were trying to drive black people out of the housing project, located in an overwhelmingly Latino area with a history of racial tensions and violence.
The attack caused minor to moderate property damage to the homes of four families at the housing complex. No one was hurt, but prosecutors said one of the firebombs landed where a woman and her baby had just been sleeping.
The men charged were identified as Carlos Hernandez, aka Creeper and Rider, 31; Jose Saucedo, aka Lil' Moe, 22; Francisco Farias, aka Bones, 25; Joseue Garibay, aka Malo, 23; Edwin Felix, aka Boogie, 23; Jonathan Portillo, aka Pelon, 21; and Joel Matthew Monarrez, aka Gallo, 21.
They were charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights; conspiracy to use fire and carry explosives to commit another federal felony; attempted arson of federal property; using fire and carrying explosives to commit another federal felony; aiding and abetting; and violent crime in aid of racketeering and interference with housing rights.
At 10 counts, it's one of the largest civil rights indictments in local history, according to the FBI.
Prosecutors said Hernandez led a meeting to organize the firebombing. He allegedly told the other suspects that the purpose of the firebombing was to "get the n------ out of the neighborhood" or words to that effect.
Five of the seven men charged appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom on Thursday. The judge deemed the men involved a threat to the public, saying he has never seen a bigger threat to the public.
If convicted of all the charges, the men face spending the rest of their lives in prison.