Ontiveros lived as a downtown Los Angeles hipster, renting a posh unit in the classy Bunker Hill Towers on West First Street, sharing the building with other choosy tenants: judges, lawyers, and downtown professionals.

He was one of 43 reputed Mexican Mafia members and associates indicted in 1999 by a Los Angeles County grand jury for racketeering, murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, and drug trafficking. Federal authorities believe Ontiveros helped plot to kill drug dealer Richard Serrano at his Montebello auto-body shop in 1998 — details of which poured from the mouth of former Cal State L.A. student and Mexican Mafia associate Max Torvisco, who cut a plea deal and is now in federal prison.

Last October, federal and local authorities finally caught up to Rolo, blending into well-kept, middle-class Rowland Heights, where he was in the midst of turning the home into an indoor marijuana farm. Police say $1 million (retail) in pot was confiscated. He goes on trial on July 27 on federal RICO charges.

Assistant United States Attorney Bob Dugdale, pursuing the RICO charges, says, "[Ontiveros] worked his way through the Lott gang to become a leader and eventually a soldier."

There is one deeply troubling hint that Rolo may have had friends in high places. In 1999, the cops nearly closed in on Rolo, according to an anonymous law enforcement source who cannot be named because he fears department reprisal. But when the LAPD's Eme Task Force (named for La Eme, or the Mexican Mafia) showed up at his apartment in Bunker Hill Towers, Rolo was gone, which left cops unnerved and jumpy. "Someone tipped him off," says the source. Yet only a handful of people inside LAPD knew about the raid on Rolo. LAPD internal affairs reportedly began an investigation, whose secret outcome probably will never be known.

Police believe Rolo Ontiveros fled to Mexico, and rumors drifted back that he had opened up restaurants there while keeping his hand in the drug trade in Southern California, along with his Cuatro Flats gang pal Saenz, and his Lott gang pals, Torres and Bello.

"They were all in it deep," says Gonzales, a small woman who sounds tough, and is. "These guys are intelligent. They are not dumbasses. They didn't look like your typical shave-your-head baggy-pants gangster. They went to high-dollar clubs. They were trendy. That was the image they were looking for. They know what the laws are. What police can and cannot do. How to avoid detection."

Homicide detective Chavarria began hearing rumors that Smiley was in Los Angeles and had brazenly walked into LAPD's Hollenbeck station and used an ATM, set up inside so residents of tough Hollenbeck, with its small stucco homes and numerous gangs, could feel safe while getting cash.

Another informant says Saenz had plastic surgery to change his face. Chavarria heard that Saenz was killed in Mexico by drug cartels. Smiley was becoming a legend who moved silently between the First and Third Worlds, an elusive go-between supplying the U.S. drug appetite and fighting in Mexico's violent drug wars.

"His homeboys put that out," Chavarria scoffs. "They would say he was shot and killed in a shootout in Mexico. It was all bullshit."

But unsettling news about Saenz kept dribbling in. A woman in Boyle Heights had been kidnapped for money, a crime rarely seen in Los Angeles, yet harrowingly similar to the crisis in Mexico, where thousands of kidnappings have occurred. She was released unharmed after a large, undisclosed amount was paid to her abductors. Chavarria heard about it all later, and street rumors pointed to Saenz.

It's not hard to hide in plain sight in massive, diverse Los Angeles and its eastern suburbs. At the entrance to Pellissier Village in Whittier, signs warn that horses use the same roads. In fact, they and their riders amble freely down the middle of the streets. Roosters cock-a-doodle-do. About 80 percent of the 200 residences include horses in stables behind modest, plain-Jane houses. Others have miniature donkeys or a cow or two.

People ride along the nearby San Gabriel River, just up from the treasured wetland ecosystem of the Whittier Narrows. The area, designated as a equestrian district in 1972, has a small-town feel.

Its peace was shaken early on October 5, 2008, when shots rang out. Responding police found the bullet-ridden body of Oscar Torres on the front lawn of his two-bedroom house on Mardel Avenue. One neighbor, awakened by nearby knocking and gunfire, recalls, "My daughter told me to stay down."

Neighbors knew Oscar Torres as Sam, a "nice guy who never bothered anyone" and who operated a party equipment rental business and a black-stretch Hummer-limo service. But close friends say he went by the street name EZ and was a martial arts practitioner who routinely frisked even his friends.

"If he met you, he would shake you down," says Efrain Bello, whose late brother, Bogart, was close to Torres and Ontiveros before his own bizarre death. Torres "didn't trust anybody. But he was extremely loyal. When my brother disappeared, he was the first person there. He wasn't afraid of anybody. He was well respected on the streets."

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25 comments
Jrfrk01
Jrfrk01

California"s not mexico?

ByteRider
ByteRider

What an awesome and scary story, Christine. Thank you! Now, could you run a copy past Lemons before he writes another article that puts the Copy Editor on suicide watch? Thanks.

Ace08650
Ace08650

And it's more of these people you folks want coming here,right? These upstanding model citizen types like this Saenz person? You people at New Times are just as obteuse as president Obama. I fail to understand why you love these people so much, and seem to want the dissolution of the border so that the American taxpayer can support them medically,economically, and education wise. It has to stop somewhere.SB 1070 clearly sends the message, the time is NOW ,the place is HERE.

billy
billy

I agree with the one guy.......tell stories about all the good stuff hispanics have done and do. I am white, but know a lot of so-called "hispanics" I think all the labels of color and creed are really stupid and perpetuated by liberals in office using minorities for political means. Exploitation is rampant, but a white, semi-conservative I am not anti-hispanic in any way but totally against illegal immigration from any country.

rsepoca
rsepoca

When are we/those gonna learn that a piece of shit will always be just that...damn what has America come too? We all have an obligation to stop paying for the criminals/illegals in the US....hang all the MF'ing criminals/illegals...bring capital punishment back and stop wasting taxpayers money!!!!

C. Randall
C. Randall

As long as gang-bangers want to kill each other, I fully support it. Every one of them shot means one less in our society. The killing of the girlfriend was sad, but when you lay down with dogs you're gonna get fleas.

Linda
Linda

This article illustrates why Governor Brewer is taking action to prevent Arizona from becoming another California. Those yahoos on the L.A. Council who are boycotting want more Mexicans to come here to take over the entire southwest. Then what? Another cess pool like L.A. They attend college at taxpayers' expense, major in ethnic studies like Villaraigosa and then set out to destroy everything we have accomplished in this country. Further, it was not the Mexicans who settled the southwest. It was the Spaniards, as well as people from England, Germany, and France. There was no such thing as a Mexican.

Hammerhead
Hammerhead

Hopefully the mexican police will find his dead body in the bottom of a pit.

dopey
dopey

this guy in an AMERICAN institution!!! we liberals love this guy!! we like to make them famous, write articles about them , raise thier prestige, this guy is perfect to run the jails too!!! and proudly he will!!here at the new times we support all liberals!!!!! it works so well, we are proud to do our part, with a name like smilly!!!!! he can be on obamas cabinet!!!! go smilly we love you!!!!!!!!!

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phill
phill

Deporting all the immigrants will not solve cartel violence problems. The best thing to combat these mafias is to bring these drugs under control through legalization and tax the living daylights out of this stuff and then educate everyone about the dangers of these products like the government does with tobacco and alcohol. This problem will persist as long as the money stays lucrative and it is easy to get rich quick.

phxstreets
phxstreets

yet ANOTHER criminal who ought to have been born to ravage a different country because of his rich Mexican cultural heritage.

This is not news. This is typical of Arizona and California because there is no security on the border. Travis Murphy was murdered because of NO border security. If the MURDERER would have been born in his MOTHER'S country of origin and LANGUAGE, and if his MOTHER never had the opportunity to break our laws, Officer Murphy would be alive. How many of our law enforcement public servants would be alive today if illegals were not extended that ridiculous welfare benefit of legitimizing their unending offspring by virtue of birth over the border?

Anyone want to tackle that question? It seems that our university researchers are afraid to delve into that issue.

Hey. How about we allow EVERYONE on the FACE of the EARTH to become an AMERICAN CITIZEN if only they make it through the "harsh" Arizona desert and immediately have unprotected SEX??

To you intelligent ( oh, probably genius ) professors, how long until the state is TOTALLY bankrupt?

In order to avoid bankruptcy, how about we simply make AZ a part of Mexico? Mexicans believe they belong here. We can just let them have this wasteland of filth and stickers and dirty alleys.

Provided they do not attempt agree not to penetrate Utah (HA HA HA)

Roy Lorenz
Roy Lorenz

Why spend your talented resources on someone who chose such violent and negative path. There are many Hispanic-Americans who have overcome extremely impoverished circumstances through dedication and perseverance, their stories need to be known!

WenG
WenG

Sloppy police work + laws preventing police (the ones who are awake) from detaining you unless you've committed a felony + drug violence. Check, check, and check. SB 1070 was inevitable. Arizona reminds me of a drunk with clinical depression. Once the drunk is sober, they're still a pain in the ass to live with. Taking the emotion out of the equation, legalize everything and put Arpaio and the cartels out of business in one move. Force MX into parity. If they treat their citizens like crap, give the U.S. something in return for providing asylum and/or citizenship.

jan
jan

A well researched article. I agree with the 1st comment. I too am confused regarding the author trying to highlight life as a hispanic/Mexican. This article is of horror and mayhem. I bet you if you gave each of the people in the projects the opportunity to "escape" and never see another hispanic. They would take it. I too am an immigrant. I have sacrificed everything to give my children and the next generation a better life. I believe you always have a choice. It is what you do to get what you want. Is the the choice one that would lead to a better life or violence, murder, rape, horror. If you look at what was highlighted in this article. the movement of people across borders, criminals, etc. These are people that have only greed and self in mind. Others as I did come here to create a new reality. just go and look at Mexico and their laws around immigration. Wow. It is a failure as a state/country...is there any goodness or joy eft in this world. This guy in this article and the person that romanticize him (author) and his culture is such a farce. That is the very reason a law like SB1070 is written, You manage to the lowest common denominator. Not the poor people that cross the border, desperate, trying to escape a failed state/country. God bless America. In Rome you do as the Romans do.

ajibik
ajibik

I agree with Willy, but with the added feature that we make it retroactive to ALL non-indigenous people living here from 1442 on.

Rachael
Rachael

I'm confused by the "Editor's Note" at the beginning of this article. It states that the VVM is "telling the story of Hispanics among us...and the struggles they face." This story is about a criminal, regardless of race, he is a criminal. What this story has to do with our national illegal-immigration problem is lost on me. And Arizona is not full of clowns, but rather a people who are tired of not having our Federal government enforce it's own laws. With the clown name calling comment you have yourself proven to pass judgment on a people whom you know nothing about.

Bob Johnson
Bob Johnson

Law enforcement had him and they let him go. They have nothing to comaplain about as he luxuriates in his heinous depravity. And thus his carnage continues unabated. Anyone mind if he is shot dead upon sight? Girlymen? Tissue Queens? Leotard Lawyers?

jay
jay

I totally agree with betterthanyou, willy whacker is everything better called him. people like willy are the reason we all get called racist. (I"m a 60 year old white guy) and I"d really like to think that willy is the minority. If it was a choice of shooting a hispanic (as he suggests)or willy ,,,,bye,bye willy

betterthanyou
betterthanyou

Wow, WillyWhacker (and it sounds like you like to whack yourself a lot) what a piece of filthy, racist sh*t you are. You're no better than the trash this article was written about. You should all be let loose together on some desert island where you will hopefully all off each other and leave Planet Earth for those of us who AREN'T inbred knuckle draggers. You should move to Arizona to hang out with other clowns of your kind.

WillyWhacker
WillyWhacker

This is why we should implant a surveillance chip in every mexican so we can track them on satellite. If we find a mexican without a chip, we shoot them. Racial profiling is necessary to wipe out these kinds of criminal sydicates.

MXSKS
MXSKS

sends money for support her???!!!...you're kidding Kristine...obviously you didn't ready the part what he did to the mother...first raped then shot in head...to you understand the gravity of the things this human excrement did...caring is the last thing in his dictionary, he is a ruthless thug/maniac who I hope will one day get what he deserves and I am not talking about prison…that’s way too good of an ending to this story.

Larry in Oak Cliff
Larry in Oak Cliff

What a sad story. With that said, he played the gangster life. In my world, he's just another player with a gun who failed his family.

The one good thing about his death: He is no longer harming anyone. He was a criminal psychopath. Nothing more and nothing less.

Kristine
Kristine

What a well written story... sad and chilling to know that there are murderers on our street, passing by in cars or on foot, free for years and years, while families continue to mourn.What a shame for Smiley's daughter. I wonder if she knows the truth about her father, or if he sends money to support her.

Think Tonya Craft and her ex
Think Tonya Craft and her ex

Makes one wonder how many fathers have harmed their daughter's Mother. Even more deviously than using a gun. On this Father's Day week-end, it's also time to remember the father's who have destroyed their wives, ex-wives for their own self-interest and caused great harm to their children that will remain with them forever.

 
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