A judge guaranteed the founder of the Asian Boyz gang will spend the rest of his life in prison, slamming him Wednesday with eight consecutive life sentences for a mid-1990s crime spree that included eight murders in a quest to make his gang the most feared in Los Angeles.
Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry called 37-year-old Marvin Mercado a clear danger to society and said only two of his victims were rival gang members while the rest were law-abiding citizens.
"He deserves the greatest sentence this court can impose," Perry said. "The amount of pain and senseless hurt this defendant and his associates have caused is enormous and incalculable."
The bespectacled Mercado, who did not address the court, was stone-faced as Perry sentenced him to the life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murders.
He also was given 10 consecutive 15-year-to-life sentences for 10 attempted murders, and 50 years on weapons and other charges, also to be served consecutively.
A jury had rejected the death penalty earlier this month, opting to impose life without parole after convicting Mercado of the charges. Defense attorney Donald J. Calabria said he would appeal.
The sentencing marked the end of a 16-year legal odyssey involving Mercado, who had escaped to the Philippines, married into a wealthy family and lived a luxurious lifestyle under a false name before he was arrested in 2007.
Mercado founded the notorious Asian Boyz in the early 1990s with a schoolmate in the San Fernando Valley, prosecutor Hoon Chun said. The gang had Cambodian, Vietnamese and Filipino factions and included three cliques in the suburbs of Los Angeles and one in San Jose.
Most street gangs make money by dealing drugs, but the Asian Boyz committed burglaries and robberies. That made them hard for police to track because they were not associated with any particular territory.
"They simply went anywhere the money was," Chun said.
In 1995, the Asian Boyz embarked on the violent rampage dubbed the "summer of madness" in a bid to gain notoriety, Chun said.
After Los Angeles police connected the string of killings and shootings, a seven-detective task force was formed to track the gang. A break came when detectives following several members arrested them during a shooting, Chun said.
The arrested members led police to Mercado, whose quiet leadership style earned him the nickname "Shyboy," and to his brother Pierre.
The Mercados, however, fled to the Philippines, the home of their parents _ an engineer and a real estate agent.
Using the name Mark de los Angeles, Marvin Mercado married the daughter of a wealthy construction magnate in a lavish wedding that Mercado family members attended under false names. Brother Pierre posed as his cousin, Angel Reyes, Chun said.
An aunt, Luz Rodriguez, testified at the trial that she took the bride aside a week before the wedding and told her Mercado's real identity, but the bride said she already knew.
Mercado lived for a year with his in-laws in a gated compound, described by Chun as "Bel Air-like," before moving to a tony condo in a ritzy section of Manila. He ran an Internet cafe and a fish farming business.
However, his life of luxury came to an end when a reward resulted in a tip to authorities. The brothers were arrested and extradited. Pierre Mercado is awaiting trial on four counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.
The Asian Boyz still exist, but Chun said the convictions of Mercado and seven other members significantly diminished the gang's criminal activity.
"They were responsible for a horrendous number of shootings that showed no signs of stopping," he said. "This is one of those few cases where we can say we made an impact."
Jennifer Gregory, whose husband Jon Gregory was killed in a 1995 home invasion by the gang, said Wednesday she was relieved that justice had been done. Her three daughters were left traumatized by the murder of their father and grew up fearing the killers would return.
"It tore apart my kids, but it's getting better," she said. "He can't do anything to anyone any more. I can try to move on."
Chun said he believes Mercado deserved the death penalty, but called the sentence "a nice measure of justice." "I can't complain too much," he added.