Food truck vendors target of extortion

LOS ANGELES - Two alleged gang members pleaded not guilty last week to charges that they attempted to extort money from food truck vendors in Los Angeles.Miguel Morales, 19, and Dainler Baquevano, 24, each are charged with six counts of attempted extortion and one count each of vandalism. Morales and Baquevano allegedly tried to collect $50 a week in "rent" from vendors who operated food trucks in the 77th Street area of Los Angeles. Vendors who refused to pay were threatened and one victim had a large rock thrown through the front windshield of his truck, prosecutors said. A criminal complaint alleges that the extortion was committed for the benefit of the 18th Street gang. Bail was set at $420,000 for Morales and $255,000 for Baquevano. If convicted, Morales faces more than 35 years in prison and Baquevano more than 15 years, officials said.

********** Published: January 13, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 39