Former 18th Street gang member Hector “Weasel” Marroquin for years was celebrated and rewarded for having turned his life around.
He founded the anti-gang organization NO GUNS and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city for his efforts to help steer Latino youths away from a life of crime. His champions included former state Sen. Tom Hayden.
But his arrest this week on charges of selling firearms to federal undercover officers underscored concerns long held by people familiar with Marroquin’s background that he had not left his criminal life behind.
“I never for a moment believed that he ever left the life,” said Connie Rice, a civil rights attorney and former member of the Los Angeles Police Commission who noted that she saw Marroquin at meetings of anti-gang agencies. “I always thought he was using the system.”
Marroquin, 51, was arrested Thursday at his Downey home on charges of selling several guns, including a machine gun, two silencers and two rifles, to undercover officers. He bailed out of Los Angeles County jail Thursday night and could not be reached for comment.
His lawyer, Patrick Smith, did not return phone calls Friday. …
Marroquin’s arrest marks the latest chapter in a life filled with controversy.
In the mid-1990s, claiming to have left the gang life, Marroquin formed NO GUNS â€” Networks Organized for Gang Unity and Neighborhood Safety â€” headquartered in Lennox. Over the next decade, NO GUNS emerged as one of the area’s few anti-gang groups run by Latinos.
In 2000, the Sheriff’s Department called in NO GUNS to help quell riots between Latinos and blacks at its Pitchess Detention Center.
But some law enforcement officials believed that Marroquin was a front man for the Mexican Mafia prison gang and that NO GUNS was a facade for illegal activity and a channel for public funds.