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‘Reformed’ gangster pleads out

By on January 11, 2020

first_imgAfter a startling turnaround from gang member to gang interventionist, Mario Corona’s life took a darker twist Friday when he pleaded no contest to narcotics and firearm charges. The one-time gang leader from Pacoima had gone back to school and worked his way through Pierce College and California State University, Northridge, then earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California. Lauded by the community for his work diverting kids from gangs, he appeared to be the picture of success – until he was arrested Feb. 28 with nearly a pound of methamphetamine in his car. On Friday, he pleaded no contest to transportation of a controlled substance and being a felon in possession of a firearm, a 9 mm handgun found in his house. “Unfortunately, the image Mario Corona was portraying of assisting troubled youth and gang members was not accurate,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Jack Garden said in a statement. “This plea today demonstrates he continued his criminal activity, including dealing in a significant amount of methamphetamine and possessing a gun.” Under terms of the plea, Corona, 30, of Panorama City will serve 32 months in prison when sentenced May 25. He’s also facing deportation to Mexico upon his release. Prosecutors characterized him as an illegal immigrant, which his family and attorney disputed. Prior to his arrest, Corona had been a popular and respected presence at Communities in Schools, a North Hills-based job services and gang intervention agency. Where they once hailed him for his work ethic, co-workers decried him for what they described as greed and selfishness. “He chose to lead a double life at the expense of our credibility,” CIS President Bobby Arias said. “I told him that this is a selfish act. We hope he can bounce back, but he’s not going to do it with our organization.” Corona had hoped to attend law school or earn a doctorate in sociology or criminal justice. He said he planned to write books and work with gang members looking for ways to reform their lives. “Before this moment, Mario had done a lot of good work helping people,” said his attorney, Aron Laub. “In the future, Mario will again be doing a lot of good work helping people. I guarantee that today’s events will not be the defining moment in his life.” [email protected] (818) 713-3738160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more

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