Mexican Mafia Leader dies 75,

Adolf  “Champ” Reynoso


     On Wednesday, November 21, 2018, Adolph “Champ” Reynoso, 75, the highest ranking active Mexican Mafia member, passed away at 4:17 p.m. at St. Mary Corwin Hospital in Pueblo, Colorado just days after discovering that cancer had permeated most of his body.

Champ spent the last 40 years in lockup status in the Bureau of Prisons USP penal system.  He was born on August 21, 1943, and belonged to the Big Hazard (Hazard Grande) street gang, located in the Boyle Heights district of East Los Angeles.  Champ ascended the criminal corporate ladder in the 1950’s and 60’s as a notorious street gang leader. 

A prolific street fighter, Champ acquired his nickname on the streets of L.A. and in the juvenile and adult penal system where he aggressively displayed his pugilistic skills.

In the mid 1960’s, he was committed to the California Department of Corrections where he received his first prison number – CDC #A85331.  The Mexican Mafia prison gang had already been in existence for several years (since 1957) when Champ (pictured below) was recruited into their infamous fraternity of misfits.

                                                                                       SAN QUENTIN – 1966

As an adult convict, Champ spent most of his early confined years, between the mid 1960’s through the mid 1970’s, jockeying between San Quentin and Folsom prisons.  Champ is pictured in the following photo with fellow Hazard gang homie “Robot” Salas and other EME cohorts.

                                       STANDING: Steve “Calote” Amador, Carlos “Pie Face” Ortega, Richard “Riko”                                                                      Diaz, Adolph “Champ” Reynoso, Frank “Kiki” Maez, and Gilbert “Shotgun” Sanchez;                                                                      SQUATTING: Mike “Jap Mike” Kudo, Luis “Bala” Talamantez, Danny “Chapo” Chapa, and Robert “Robot” SalasSAN QUENTIN LOWER YARD – MID 1960’s

While at the Soledad State Prison O-Wing Adjustment Center, inmate Roger Dale Smith, also known as “Pincushion Smitty” because of the number of knife wounds he had sustained during his years in prison, mouthed off to Champ who was unable to physically get to him.  Because he was a notorious snitch, Pincushion was only permitted to exercise alone for his own protection.  But on one occasion, guards allowed him to exercise with an inmate who was not considered dangerous.  Pincushion’s new exercise partner had already agreed to do Champ a favor.  As Pincushion conversed with a confined inmate, Champ gave a prearranged signal.

The inmate inside the cell suddenly grabbed Pincushion from the collar and pulled him firmly against the bars.  Pincushion’s exercise partner quickly walked up from behind and stabbed him multiple times.  Pincushion screamed in pain, calling out to the guards, as the prison-made shank plunged repeatedly into his back.  Meanwhile, simultaneous to the attack and to cover up Pincushion’s screams, Champ began to sing aloud, “You Belong to Me.”  An alert guard picked up on the deception and sounded the alarm, successfully thwarting the attack.

Following his release on state parole, Champ and two fellow EME members were considered suspects in the October 6, 1972, ambush of two correctional officers who were transporting a prisoner from Chino Men’s Prison to the San Bernardino Superior Courthouse.  Officers Jesus Sanchez and George Fitzgerald were intercepted one mile from the prison, removed from the car and both men were shot.  Sanchez died at the hospital and Fitzgerald survived.

Mexican Mafia members Adolph “Champ” Reynoso, fellow Hazard EME brother Manuel “Rocky” Luna, and Joe “Peg Leg” Morgan, were never charged for this crime which today remains unsolved.  Champ is pictured below with “Rocky” Luna and Joe Morgan in a group shot with fellow EME members at Chino Prison prior to the assault on the two correctional officers.

                         STANDING:  Joe “Peg Leg” Morgan, Steve “Calote” Amador, Richard “Richie” Jaramillo,                                                                 and Gilbert “Mongol” Silva; SQUATTING: Pete “Sana” Ojeda, Manuel “Rocky”                                         Luna, and Adolph “Champ” Reynoso         C.I.M. – CHINO South C.C. Facility 1971-72

Like most Mexican Mafia members with years of substance abuse history, Champ was a hope-to-die heroin addict.  Between parole violations in the early to mid- 1970’s, Champ participated with several street crime partners ripping off drug connections and performing armed robberies to support their monster heroin habits. Champ is pictured in the following photograph with sister Lorraine, her boyfriend, EME member Robert “Wito” Marquez, and longtime EME Richard “Richie” Ruiz.

                                                                                     Los Angeles – 1975

Champ and Wito became crime partners with the two teaming up to terrorize local L.A. drug dealers.  As Mexican Mafia members began to parole from California state prisons, Champ employed the services of fellow associates who were open to joining him for the purpose of turning a quick buck.    

From Folsom Prison to the free world, Champ established a close relationship with Joe “Peg Leg” Morgan who, like Champ, was a highly placed Mexican Mafia member.  They commanded respect from their fellow associates and generated fear and respect from the street and prison gang underworld.

There were two EME members who Joe Morgan considered like sons and affectionately referred to each as “mijo,” (Spanish slang for “my son”):  Ramon “Mundo” Mendoza and Adolph “Champ” Reynoso.  As history would demonstrate, one “son” would go “bad” (Mundo), the other (Champ) stayed “true” to the end.

                                                                    CHAMP REYNOSO and JOE MORGAN

         Adolph “Champ” Reynoso, Daniel “Dangerous Dan” DeAvila, and William “Willie Bobo” Gouveia                                                                                      LOS ANGELES – 1976

                                              Adolph “Champ” Reynoso, Paul “Huero Tres” Portillo, Tomas “Killer”                                               Martinez, and Daniel “Dangerous Dan” DeAvilaLos Angeles – May 1976

In the late 1970s, Italian mobster Aladena “Jimmy the Weasel” Fratianno became acting boss for the Los Angeles mob.  Having done time with Champ at San Quentin, Fratianno contacted Alfred “Mono” Esparza, an EME associate from San Diego, and in 1977 he asked to  meet with Champ.  The two met in San Francisco where he asked Champ to hit what turned out to be the very people in the Italian Mob who wanted Fratianno dead.  When Jimmy approached Champ with the proposal, Champ agreed to do the hit and received a down payment from Jimmy.  Champ decided he would check out Jimmy’s story to verify it was indeed a sanctioned hit.  Champ reached out to his west coast mob connections and discovered it was Fratianno who was a mob execution target.  After ascertaining that Jimmy was the one in bad standing, Champ related to Joe Morgan he had agreed to hit Fratianno for the Mob.  Because Champ had not taken care of his proposed business in a timely manner, Jimmy “The Weasel” became suspicious and uneasy.  Before Champ could get back to him, his instinct prevailed and Jimmy suddenly disappeared and he went to the Feds.  He then surfaced as a witness against his mob cohorts.

During this period, Champ married a young neighborhood home girl named Linda Dellantonia.    She readily agreed to have his “brand” emblazoned on her chest for life!  The tattoo read: Property of Adolph C. Reynoso

One of Champ’s bank robbery crime partners was Aryan Brotherhood member William “Puppet” McKinney, who had paroled from Folsom Prison.  On September 7, 1977, the duo embarked on a bank robbery spree that culminated in Thousand Oaks, California, and prompted L.A.P.D. police chief Ed Davis to “Declare War on the Mexican Mafia.”


Pursuant to bank camera video footage, the two men were subsequently arrested and charged with the $39,000 Bank of America bank robbery.  Champ was released on bail and the men were tried in federal court.  Puppet was convicted and Champ elected to jump bail.  He and wife Linda fled to Denver where they holed up in a hotel room and shot heroin for several weeks.


According to Linda, every morning before Linda received her injection of heroin, Champ would demand she get on her knees and beg for her morning “fix.”  On other occasions he would beat her for fun and make her thank him for the privilege of being alive.  Linda grew weary of the abuse and one night as Champ slept, she crept out of bed, exited the room and telephoned the number given to her in Los Angeles by one of the arresting officers.  Against her better judgment, especially being the wife of a gangster, she had decided to keep the agent’s calling card, a customary practice for any good officer who endeavored to plant a hopeful seed.  Now, in retrospect, Linda was thankful she had not discarded it.

Gilbert Garcia was a member of the California Prison Gang Task Force.  Upon receiving Linda’s incoming call and ascertaining her exact location, he advised her to remain near the phone booth until responding law enforcement officers arrived.  Minutes later, a team of FBI agents and Denver police met with Linda who told them Champ was sound asleep with a handgun under his pillow and another on the floor directly beneath the bed on his side.   After retrieving the room key, the officers quietly entered the room.  With guns drawn and trained on Champ’s sleeping body, one officer carefully slid and secured the handgun from beneath the pillow; another agent picked up the second gun on the floor beneath the bed and the officers then barked out their commands.  Startled from a deep sleep, Champ reached under his pillow, found nothing, then rolled off the bed grasping for where the second weapon would have been.  Realizing it was over, he then surrendered to the arresting officers who successfully effected the apprehension of wanted fugitive Adolph Reynoso.

Champ would never again see the free world.

Champ Reynoso’s new prison number was BOP #20486-148.  He would retain this number for over 40 years.

On September 4, 1978, Champ was sentenced to 17 years in federal prison and was transferred to the United States Penitentiary in Lompoc, California.

On November 11, 1978, Champ and three fellow Mexican Mafia members brutally stabbed fellow member Tomas “Japo” Trejo 47 times in what was described as an “internal cleaning” execution.  Just prior to the murder, Champ had joked that “Japo” would be home for Christmas.  The Trejo killing was the first recorded Mexican Mafia execution inside a United States federal prison facility.

On April 23, 1981, Champ and his three EME associates, William “Willie Bobo” Gouveia, Phillip “Black” Segura, and Robert “Black Bobby” Ramirez, were each sentenced to consecutive terms of life plus 99 years in federal prison.  Reynoso, Gouveia and Segura would later become the Mexican Mafia’s top leaders as members of the EME’s Federal Commission.

From the date of the Japo Trejo murder at Lompoc, Champ would serve 40 years and 11 days in the tightest security units in the BOP – Lompoc lockup, Marion USP and over 20 years at the ADX Super Max facility in Florence, Colorado, where Champ ultimately completed his life term, succumbing to cancer.

May God have mercy on your soul.

Photographs/Graphics Courtesy of ThinkBlue Inc.

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