SACRAMENTO — Donald “Popeye” Mazza, the co-founder and lifelong leader of a Southern California skinhead gang known as Public Enemy Number One, or PEN1, has pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering and conspiracy in federal court. show records.
Maza, 51, conspired with members of the Aryan Brotherhood and PEN1 to murder a man named Michael “Thumper” Trippe, a fellow gang member whose murder prosecutors argued was a high-ranking prison gang. Member ordered. Trippe was never killed, and later wrote a declaration in favor of Mazza’s release from pretrial custody.
As part of the settlement, Mazza signed a document written by the U.S. Attorney’s office, which states that he agreed to kill Trippe because he feared being murdered by the Aryan Brotherhood, and several alleged Nominates Aryan Brotherhood members as co-conspirators. Prosecutors have agreed to take a “low end” sentence in exchange for a guilty plea, although the maximum possible sentence is life in federal prison.
On Wednesday morning, Mazza pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to murder Trippe, as well as a general racketeering allegation that he was a member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang. Mazza’s current whereabouts are unknown; He was being held in the Sacramento County Jail until September 2021, when he disappeared from the prison register along with another co-defendant, Travis Burhope. Prosecutors declined to explain why or where the two men were transferred.
Mazaz was indicted in 2019 along with 15 alleged members and associates of the Aryan Brotherhood, with two men suspected of being commissioners of the gang. The principal defendants are set to go to trial in March 2023. So far, only Mazza and one other person have done petition deals.
Authorities describe Maza as a notorious Orange County gangster with personal knowledge of dozens of murders. He served time in state prison for the attempted murder of a fellow PEN1 member. He was held in a separate housing unit from Pelican Bay Jail at a time when a solitary confinement module was being used to house what he deemed the most dangerous inmates in the state.
In his plea agreement, Mazza admitted to becoming a member of the Aryan Brotherhood in 2009, when he was imprisoned in Pelican Bay, and named five other co-defendants as members of the Aryan Brotherhood.
In 2017, the American Defamation League described Mazza as the gang’s most notable leader, who used his status as an Aryan Brotherhood member to increase PEN1’s credibility and influence in the state prison system.
In 2019, prosecutors alleged that Mazza was ordered to kill Trippe by an alleged Aryan Brotherhood commissioner, Ronald Dean Yandel, who is the main defendant in the case. Yandell has countered that the charges against him are a bogus concoction of retaliation for his role in establishing a peace treaty between various ethnic groups in prison, and for his participation in the hunger strike, which forced the prison system to keep people in solitary confinement. significantly reduced its capacity. ,
Prosecutors allege that Yandel solicited Mazza to kill Trippe after another Aryan Brotherhood member failed to assassinate him, and used a banned cellphone to order the murder. Yandel – now represented by three defense attorneys after ending his bid to represent himself – filed court papers calling the DEA’s wiretaps of his cellphone illegal. A judge has yet to make a final decision on that motion.
According to prosecutors, Trippe was targeted based on a belief that he was an informant for law enforcement and had spent money for the gang.
The third alleged co-conspirator in the Trippe murder plot was Matthew “Psycho” Hall, a former MMA fighter and PEN1 member who allegedly died by suicide in August 2019 after being arrested in Costa Rica. Hall was wanted in connection with the Orange County robbery. Which turned out to be fatal in addition to pending racketeering charges. He was also the subject of an investigation into drug trafficking in Southern California.
Mazza’s plea agreement states that he unwillingly agreed to kill Trippe, fearing the consequences of failing to fulfill the order.
“Although Mazza was a friend of Trippe and did not want to commit the murder, Mazza understood that, if he did not obey the order, he would eventually be targeted by the Enterprise for murder because he did not take his responsibility as a member of the Enterprise,” the petition agreement states. “Thus, in order to maintain his position in the Enterprise and to avoid the repercussions of not killing Trippe, Maza agreed to arrange for Trippe’s assassination. expressed.”
In an intercepted prison call in October 2016, Yandell reportedly told a co-defendant, Samuel Keaton, that Maza herself could be targeted for murder for failing to fulfill the Aryan Brotherhood’s instructions, according to the plea agreement. Is. Keaton is the only other defendant to have pleaded guilty so far, and is still awaiting sentencing.
After Mazaz’s arrest in 2019, he made several unsuccessful attempts to get out of jail; His lawyers wrote in a quote that he was a changed man who found religion and left the life of his gang behind. The petition included a declaration by Trippe that he did not believe the murder conspiracy charge against him, as well as testimonials from retired Orange County law enforcement officers who had vouched for Maza.
In protest of the release, prosecutors revealed that during the investigation, officers organized a concert by “hardcore straight-edge punk rock group” Dead Friends, of which Maza was a lead singer. US Attorney Jason Hitt described Maza as “a leader and a celebrity in the community of white supremacist gangs”, whose concerts became gathering places for members of the Skinhead gang.
Devlin “Gazoo” Stringfellow, 48, one of the co-founders of PEN1, was stabbed to death at the Sacramento State Prison yard in 2018.
Maza’s sentence is set before US District Judge Kimberly Mueller on September 12 at 9 a.m.