AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champDA Steve Cooley chose to announce the case at an event that was intended to highlight the search for a missing murder suspect by offering a $25,000 reward. According to some who were there, Cooley forgot to mention the reward. What Cooley and others did talk about was the case against 18 people loosely tied to the Mexican Mafia prison gang, also known as La Eme. Several of those arrested were picked up in the San Gabriel Valley on Tuesday in a sweep conducted by Operation Safe Streets deputies, an anti-gang unit of the Sheriff’s Department. The sweep concentrated on neighborhoods in West Covina, La Puente and Azusa. County prosecutors took the unusual step of publicly going after the Mexican Mafia late last week. Unusual, because it’s typically the federal government that unveils large-scale prosecutions targeting organized crime. In the mid-1990s, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles went after several members of the gang and earned convictions when Ernie “Chuco” Castro flipped and wore a wire to several high-level meetings. Although it’s unclear if there’s a rat loose, it was wiretaps that apparently helped the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office file its case last week. One of the guys they were looking for, but hadn’t arrested yet, was identified as George “Jokes” Bravo, 39, of La Puente. Records indicate Bravo was arrested Friday by sheriff’s deputies in Industry. He outran the law for three days. Several years ago, “Jokes” was sought in connection with a carjacking and kidnapping case in La Puente. That time, his run from law lasted just three hours. According to sheriff’s deputies at the time, Bravo had hijacked a car in West Valinda in the early morning hours of June 9, 2000. The car was stopped, and Bravo fled. A search of the neighborhood ensued, and Bravo was found three hours later in possession of methamphetamine and a loaded handgun, officials said. He was hiding in a clothes dryer. Unfortunately on Friday, officials wouldn’t say how or where they found “Jokes.” Also arrested in connection with the DA’s Eme case were Maria Dolores “Lola” Llantada, 42; Yvonne Colleen Montes, 30; and Angelita Martinez, 37, all from La Puente and Valinda. Along with “Jokes” the three are accused of conspiring to murder rival Mexican Mafia members Rafael “Cisco” Gonzalez-Mu oz and Ralph “Perico” Roacha, sheriff’s investigators said Thursday. The real link to La Eme in Cooley’s case comes through Llantada’s husband, Jacques “Jocko” Padilla, 43, who is serving a life prison sentence for murder at Corcoran. Padilla has also had his share of run-ins with local law enforcement. In 1990, he was charged with kidnapping, robbery and grand theft after Azusa police arrested him at the end of a short pursuit. That wasn’t mentioned Thursday, and neither was the real reason for the news conference: the search for Robert “Pee Wee” Lopez, 18, of La Puente. Lopez is one of three suspected graffiti taggers accused of killing good Samaritan, Robert Whitehead, in West Valinda in March 2006. There’s a $25,000 reward for Lopez’s capture. An angry veteran homicide detective told me Friday that the event was hijacked by politicians thinking ahead to election season. He had hoped the hunt for “Pee Wee” would be aided by a little coverage beyond local newspapers. He admitted Friday he hoped wrong. Sources on the streets are telling detectives that “Pee Wee” is in the wind and won’t likely be seen again anytime soon – if ever. Of course, he could be hiding in a clothes dryer somewhere. [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2717 Frank Girardot is city editor of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Visit his blog at www.insidesocal.com/sgvcrime .160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!