members and associates of a prison-based gang have been charged after a
long-running investigation into drug trafficking and murders inside and
outside of California’s prisons.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice
Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott for the
Eastern District of California and Special Agent in Charge Chris Nielsen
of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made the
According to a criminal complaint unsealed today, nine defendants
have been arrested on federal racketeering and other charges for
extensive, organized criminal activity from within California’s most
secure prisons. The allegations include murders, drug trafficking and
other violent crimes. The complaint charges California State Prison
inmates Ronald Yandell, 56; Daniel “Danny” Troxell, 66; William
Sylvester, 51; Travis Burhop, 46; Brant Daniel, 44; Donald Mazza, 48,
Pat Brady, 48; Michael Torres, 55; and Jason Corbett, 47. At the outset
of this investigation, Yandell, Troxell, Sylvester, Burhop, Torres and
Corbett were all serving life sentences for murder.
Five other individuals were also arrested as part of the
investigation: Samuel Keeton, 40, of Menifee; Jeanna Quesenberry, 52, of
Sacramento; Kevin MacNamara, 39, of La Palma; Kristen Demar, 44, of
Citrus Heights; and Justin Petty, 37, of Los Angeles. Warrants have
been issued for the arrests of Kathleen Nolan 64, of Calimesa, and
Matthew Hall, 50, of Manhattan Beach.
According to court documents, between 2011 and 2016, Aryan
Brotherhood (AB) members and associates engaged in racketeering
activity, committing multiple acts involving murder and drug trafficking
offenses. Yandell and Sylvester oversaw a significant heroin and
methamphetamine trafficking operation from their shared cell. They used
smuggled-in cellphones to direct their drug trafficking activity from
their cell to the streets of Sacramento and other California cities.
Using a contraband cellphone, Yandell and Sylvester communicated with AB
members and associates to direct drug trafficking activities,
membership in the AB, order murders, and oversee other criminal
The complaint alleges that the AB members murdered five other inmates
as part of their gang activities and conspired to murder several
others. The complaint alleges that, on Oct. 7, 2011, Sylvester murdered
an inmate at Folsom State Prison and, on Aug. 12, 2015, AB associates
carried out an order to murder a rival prison gang member at Folsom
In addition, the complaint alleges that on Oct. 15, 2016, on
Corbett’s order an AB associate murdered an inmate at High Desert State
Prison in Susanville, AB member Daniel killed an inmate at Salinas
Valley prison on Oct. 29, 2016, and that AB members Corbett and Brady
murdered an inmate on July 20, 2018, at High Desert State Prison as part
of their role in the gang. The complaint further describes multiple
other murder plots.
The complaint details the drug trafficking activities of the AB.
Members and associates oversaw an extensive drug-trafficking network
that operated on the streets of Sacramento, Southern California,
Missouri, Las Vegas and elsewhere. On Aug. 11, 2016, MacNamara, a
lawyer, and Demar, posing as a paralegal, visited Sylvester in Folsom
State Prison in order to smuggle methamphetamine, cellphones and
tobacco. When the contraband was discovered, Sylvester, using a
cellphone, advised Demar to blame their contraband smuggling on the AB
in order to get out of trouble.
According to the complaint, Petty sent heroin, methamphetamine,
cellphones and other items concealed in food packages to AB members at
Folsom State Prison and High Desert State Prison. In addition, the
investigation uncovered a drug trafficking partnership between
AB members Yandell and Burhop with Torres a Mexican Mafia member.
The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case is the product of an investigation by the DEA with
substantial investigative assistance from the California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Vallejo Police Department, the U.S.
Marshals Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives, the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office and the
Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.
This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force
(OCDETF). The OCDETF program was established in 1982 to conduct
comprehensive, multilevel attacks on major drug trafficking and money
laundering organizations. The principal mission of the OCDETF program
is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking
and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for
the nation’s drug supply.