Criminal Justice

Lawyer Who Escaped Street Life Now Serves Time for Laundering Prison Gang's Money

Isaac Guillen, a California lawyer whose juvenile gang-related convictions were temporary barriers to him obtaining work, was sentenced to a seven-year prison sentence Thursday, after pleading guilty to laundering Mexican Mafia money.

A criminal defense lawyer who is now disbarred, Guillen pled guilty in 2012 to laundering more than $1.3 million, the Associated Press reports. Guillen in court stated that he laundered approximately $1.3 million for the gang, the Los Angeles Times reports, for which he was paid about $180,000.

Guillen created three businesses to launder drug and extortion money, according to the AP, and provided money to start a methamphetamine laboratory. Prosecutors say he also used attorney-client privilege to exchange messages between a Los Angeles street gang and a Mexican Mafia member serving three life sentences.

Guillen joined a Riverside, Calif., gang when he was 11 years old, according to the Times. He did multiple stints at the California Youth Authority, for arrests involving burglary, assault and car theft. He left the life in his 20s, after his apartment was shot at by rival gang members. Guillen later entered a rehab facility, stopped drinking and attended community college classes, later transferring and graduating with honors from the University of Calfornia, Berkeley. After graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, he got his law license in 1998.

Guillen found employment with the federal public defender’s office, where as a law clerk he worked on Mexican Mafia cases. He later opened his own practice.

One client, who allegedly ran a successful cocaine business from the Florence, Colo., Supermax facility, paid Guillen to pass messages, according to the Times. The two developed a code, where “high court judges” meant the Mexican Mafia, and a “lower court judge” was a shot-caller. Guillen also took as much as $17,000 cash at a time from gang members, and delivered some of it to the client’s relatives in Mexico.

At the time of his arrest, Guillen was living with his family in a $1 million, five-bedroom home. He’s been incarcerated since his arrest, and testified that the government paid $9,000 to relocate his wife and children.

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