• News/Talk
  • Music
  • Entertainment

Gangster Confidential

Michael Montgomery

Larger view
OG
(Courtesy Harper Collins)
Enlarge This Image

Until 2002, Rene Enriquez was one of the kingpins of a merciless, ultra-violent, cold-blooded crime syndicate -- the Mexican Mafia. He's currently serving a 20-to-life sentence for murder. And for ordering another killing, he's serving a concurrent 15-to-life sentence.

The Security Housing Unit (SHU) of Pelican Bay State Prison is where the worst of the worst are sent. Enriquez spent 10 years there. But even in a cell with no windows, no fresh air and limited contact with others, he was able to run mob business.

In May of 2002, Rene decided to walk away from the life. Not only that, he decided to share Mexican Mafia secrets with law enforcement.

Producer Michael Montgomery met Enriquez in 2005 and convinced him to record an audio journal. The one-time mafia shot-caller shares his thoughts in Montgomery's recently released radio documentary, "Gangster Confidential."

Enriquez had just transferred from the SHU to a prison near the Mojave Desert. This is how he saw the transition, and his life now:


Audio from Enriquez' diary: "I can come out here and walk without my shoes, with my feet on the grass here. I can come out and see the mountains every morning when I come to breakfast. I can come in the yard and bask in the sun and get a tan. You know how pale I was when I came out from Pelican Bay? We looked like vampires. That's what we called each other, 'You look like a darn vampire!' Because you had no exposure to the sun at all. You have no direct exposure to the sun."

Desiree Cooper: So Rene, when you recorded that, you'd already become a government source. You'd made it out of "The Shoe," which is solitary confinement, and you sounded so happy in that less restrictive environment. Yet we find out later that you were actually high during that interview. Why?

Rene Enriquez: You know, I think it was a facade, really. I was regretting my decisions for having left, and I was at a place where I felt I was lost and abandoned. I go from this individual with this great amount of respect and awesome amount of power to just becoming a regular Joe -- and I had never been a regular Joe all my life. Naturally, without cognitive and behavioral therapy, I regressed right to what I knew again, which was associating with individuals in the same sub-culture and participation in narcotics use and dealing drugs. That's what I knew best.

Michael, I'd imagine your position as a documentarian -- it was not unlike law enforcement in that, here's Rene, giving you information that you have to trust. How do you learn to trust what he says over time?

Michael Montgomery: I did not actually know that Rene was high during that interview for some time. And I think that's a good thing, because had I known that day or the day after that he was high, and that he was using drugs and really getting caught up in this group of gang drop-outs dealing drugs, I think I would have walked away from the project. But it didn't happen that way. And in fact, the very act of Rene revealing this to me showed to me that he was moving out of that mafioso, tough guy, 'no weaknesses' mentality. Actually, I think that that was a very, very critical moment in our work together. The other question was where he was heading. Was he going to continue to evolve and go in a positive direction, or was he going to have another relapse. And I think that was a concern. My concern, and also a concern for law enforcement.

Rene, let me ask you, by cooperating with the government, by telling your story to Michael, you gained some benefits. What did you gain by doing that?

Enriquez: I no longer have to worry about so-called brothers plotting my death or me plotting theirs. That's simplistic freedom. I guess physically, I'm no longer in "The Shoe." I'm still incarcerated, I'll probably remain incarcerated, although I'm eligible for parole.

I guess what I'm trying to gauge is how is your everyday life different now?

Enriquez: My day's devoted towards different things. I read my Bible every day -- I'm not trying to hoodwink anybody to say I'm this reformed person or I'm a rehabilitated individual. I'm not far removed from the individual I used to be. There are no swans in the system. The only difference between me and those other individuals is that I've chosen to extricate myself while they continue to wallow in it. So, I'm really learning how to be a man again.

What's helping you with that journey to learn how to be a man again?

Enriquez: You know, there are a variety of individuals. My handlers... Mike Montgomery has played a large part in it, and he's invested his trust in me. This recording became cathartic to me, therapeutic.

When you did your audio diaries?

Enriquez: Oh, definitely. When you listen to the first audio diaries, I would not even speak in an emotional manner. It was just really mechanical. But Mike sat me down one day and told me, 'Rene, this is a chance for you to speak to yourself and speak to the world and teach them about really who you are and what this life is, and something about the subculture that this world doesn't know about.' So he made this really a self-revelatory thing -- and that's a self-educational, epiphanous occurrence for me. My wife has a large part to do with it. Each step along the way, she teaches me when I go astray.

Your wife?

Enriquez: Yes, my wife. I'm married. I won't say her name -- I don't want to disclose her name for security purposes. One time, when I was talking about past victims and my wife becomes irate and she says 'How dare you speak about that individual that way? That was somebody's father, that was somebody's son that was somebody's uncle. You affected a lot of people other than that one person that got killed.' She says, 'How would you like it if somebody killed your son, Rene? How would you feel?' It was at that moment I got a lump in my throat. It was if somebody had hurt one of my children, that's how I would feel.

That never crossed your mind before?

Enriquez: You have to become a hardened individual in the business. Violence is our status mobility system. It's a brutal world. Prison is a brutal world. It's a place where there is no place for weakness, for emotion, for consideration, for empathy.

Michael, I want to know, how have you seen Rene change over the past three-and-a-half years?

Montgomery: I think that the tape that Rene slowly starts compiling, these audio diaries, really reveal a multi-dimensional man -- a multi-dimensional man who was always there, but was really stuck in this dark, solitary world of gang secrets and of violence. One of the things I recall a prison official saying who had known Rene, is saying that he had never seen Rene smile, ever, until he finally dropped out of the mob and started cooperating with authorities.

Rene, you eventually went from providing information to being a witness, which was not necessarily required of you. Why did you go further?

Enriquez: You know, there's so much that tips the scales against me. There's so much negative that I've done in my life. Here's something positive that I could do for society. Here's something that I could do for the people who have put so much faith and trust in me, and it is an educational process for me. It was just something that I could do that would be viewed as a successful, pro-social contribution that I've made to society. Here's something that I can do to give back. There's very little -- I can't give lives back, I can't redeem what I've done.

You know, it sounds wonderful, listening that you have had this epiphany, you're trying to change your life. But you killed people and you're responsible for a lot of deaths.

Enriquez: Ultimately, I am responsible for quite a bit. Acknowledging participation in specific acts I cannot do, but I think it would suffice to say that I am a very bad man.

How are we supposed to react to you now?

Enriquez: You're right to be reserved in your judgment, and even condemn me in some senses. There is going to be a large group of people who will never believe what I say, and that's OK. I'm not doing it for anybody's benefit but my own. Ultimately, if I serve a life sentence that I agreed upon, then that's what I merit because those people did die. So if you never agree upon accepting me as a member of society, or a board or a judge or a district attorney doesn't, then that's fine. Ultimately, I have aspirations of being free one day, and I hope that comes to pass.

Michael, I want to ask you: If you were on the parole board and his case came before you, what would your decision be?

Montgomery: It's difficult for me to give an answer without hearing from what law enforcement say and what others say about whether or not Rene poses a danger to society. Given what I've seen with Rene, he certainly deserves a shot at parole. The critical factor is whether or not he still poses a danger to society. Rene says he doesn't. I think in his current situation he isn't a dangerous individual. It's difficult to say if he's in society, where he hasn't been in a long, long time, how he will respond to getting work that maybe doesn't challenge or stimulate him. But if I were on the parole board, I would want to look very, very closely at what the people, law enforcement agents and investigators close to Rene say. And if you talk to those people, quite a few of them say that they believe one day, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next year, but in a few years from now, if he stays on this current course that he should be released and allowed to go back into society.

Michael, I want to thank you for being with us, and Rene I want to wish you success in your journey.

Montgomery: Thanks very much.

Enriquez: Thank you -- it's been a pleasure and an experience.

  • Music Bridge:
    For All You Happy People
    Artist: Jaga Jazzist
    CD: What We Must (Ninja Tune)

Comments

  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Tony Garcia

    From Bakersfield, CA, 11/15/2013

    Conviction is the presence of a superior reasoning power. A hope thet something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. We all at one point in our lives come to an understanding of reaching our completeness through the process of our own development. It is essentally a result, that only at the end, is it, WHAT IT IS, in very truth. The word of God defines our strength as our weakness. "God's grace is sufficient for thee" 2cor.12:9

    By Tony Garcia

    From Bakersfield, CA, 11/15/2013

    Conviction is the presence of a superior reasoning power. A hope thet something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. We all at one point in our lives come to an understanding of reaching our completeness through the process of our own development. It is essentally a result, that only at the end, is it, WHAT IT IS, in very truth. The word of God defines our strength as our weakness. "God's grace is sufficient for thee" 2cor.12:9

    By robert ruiz

    08/29/2013

    There is no doubt in my mind that Rene Enriquez deserves a chance at freedo. As mentioned in a comment above, can you imagine how productive he could be to society with such a tremendous mind like his? If you read this comment Rene, I believe in you and pray to God that he gives you a chance at freedom so that you can accomplish your goals.

    By Rene Hernandez

    From Tucson, AZ, 04/23/2013

    I read The Blackhand just few days ago. I beleive Rene is being truthful and helpful in regards to the eMe. I think he should have a chance at freedom. If given an opportunity I am sure he will conclude his life I a positive manner.

    By Rene Hernandez

    From Tucson, AZ, 04/23/2013

    I read The Blackhand just few days ago. I beleive Rene is being truthful and helpful in regards to the eMe. I think he should have a chance at freedom. If given an opportunity I am sure he will conclude his life I a positive manner.

    By Camarada Carnal

    From las vegas, NV, 04/04/2013

    Conviction seems to be a luxury to those
    that stand on the side lines. The world we live in is no different than the one temporarily survived by Rene. There are the predators and the prey. The true
    strength or weakness of Rene will manifest itself in time....in or out.

    By Camarada Carnal

    From las vegas, NV, 04/04/2013

    Conviction seems to be a luxury to those
    that stand on the side lines. The world we live in is no different than the one temporarily survived by Rene. There are the predators and the prey. The true
    strength or weakness of Rene will manifest itself in time....in or out.

    By Nathanial Thomas

    From Honolulu, HI, 04/17/2012

    Howdy folks. I read the book "The Black Hand" by Chris Blanchford and have listened to a vsriety of interviews conducted with Rene "Boxer" Enriquez. I realize that some people may feel that Boxer Enriquez was convicted of two murders and should be in prison for the rest of his life. Others may feel that he is only working with law enforcment in an effort get him a date from the parole board. I see the sides of both aurguments. However, what I firmly believe in is a thing called repentance. What people need to realize is that Boxer Enriquez has been maid no promises in regards to parole. Desspite all his work with law enforcment, there is still the possibility he may never get out of prison. I just think that is something people should take into consideration when they attempt to judge this man.

    By Jennifer D

    From LA, CA, 01/16/2010

    I don't know that Rene should be allowed out of prison. I'm not qualified to make that decision. However, I can't help but feel sad that this amazingly intelligent person did not get to use his mind to make a great life for himself. Can you imagine what type or lawyer or doctor he would have been? I shed a tear because the world didn't get to see that side of him. I do, though, think Rene has plenty left to offer the world, though other avenues. Hopefully we'll get to see it.

    By Angela Martinez

    From Phoenix, AZ, 12/21/2009

    EVERY SAINT HAS A PAST...EVERY SINNER HAS A FUTURE. HE NEVER STOPPED BEING HUMAN, HE SIMPLY LACKED THE MAKINGS OF A MAN. HE HAS SALVAGED HIS HEART & REGAINED HIS SOUL...I BELIEVE HE'S WORTHY OF A CHANCE AT FREEDOM.

    By Alexanderr Z

    From Los Angeles, 08/28/2009

    Like Michael Montgomery said, I'd ask the closest people to him. In which case, this would mean the C.O's and so called reformend inmates. We all deserve a second chance, however we're talking about more than one heinous crimes. Rene seems to be a bright man with lots of potential. Reformed Gangsters usually turn to gang intervention when they come out, but for his magnintude, I don't think that's an option for him. He's better off becoming like Edward Bunker and write books.

    By Old Girl

    From San Gabriel, CA, 08/16/2009

    Rene writes well. I read "Black Hand". No one knows that living as he did to survive he made the decision he had to make. There is no real help out there. Rene will never be free as we know what freedom is. Who knows what the truth is regarding how he turned. He turned to the gang for survival and he may have turned now for survival. The "Black Hand" is worth reading.

    By no one important

    From Thousand Palms, CA, 04/25/2009

    we will never know what a person has in their heart,but the great challenge for one self is to know whom you are. As we are all capable of doing the worst just thinking of hurting or killing is the start of the mentality. And we all thought of doing something wrong and wondering if we can get away with it at one time in our lives(mentality)there are good people who go bad and some bad go good its not for us to ask the question should we think he should go free . But one of himself of self evaluation do I believe in myself that I can be strong enough to change no wife ,Mother,Father can change who we are we can only except whom you are.The reality is we are all somebody special in someones eyes & their is always one who true-ly believes in us how one chooses to live the rest there life is up to ones self weather in in or out of prison . Remember some have there on prison in there heart. I wish him and his wife well .

    By red compo

    From London, YT, 09/11/2008

    Let hope this man rots in jail and whenthey carry him out it is in a bag because he has decomposed

    By Mario Castro

    From Mexico, CA, 09/05/2008

    I believe that Rene deserves a chance

    Someone knows where currently is Rene Enriquez?
    There is a picture taken inside San Quentin where is a little group around Rene someone knows who they are?

    By alex p

    From bakersfield, CA, 06/30/2008

    Your life is what you make of it. You either want to be a true leader or a fallacious leader. When it all comes to an end nobody is one to judge, we all make mistakes and change is always good as long as it's for the best. God Bless. Sincerley Spc P, US.ARMY....

    By david caballero

    From west covina, CA, 06/26/2008

    i feel rene deserves a second chance.

    By scott flores

    From highland park, CA, 06/18/2008

    ive never been a gangster like rene.but i have seen the tip of the iceberg,so to speak.Many of my friends gang banged,died & some are lifer's.....
    What people dont realize is that once your in L.A. county jail waiting for that ride that leads to the rest of your life,you better ask yourself....."am i a man or a mouse".Just keep in mind,THERE ARE MORE MAN TRAPS THAN MOUSE TRAPS!

    By Mark Christopher

    From Vashon, WA, 06/01/2008

    I heard this on the radio last week.I lived in east L.A. from '56 to '83.Rene is a very disarming person.You notice he has no accent or street slang? This is a very bright sociopath who is only sorry because he got put in the SHU.In reallity Rene is a softy who will pay some sort of cozmic price in some way for his actions.He can reclaim some of his original being as a person, even a vato.He's too smart to ever go back plus his wife would throw him over the house and he would land hard and that would be that.Let's give him a try.

  • Post a Comment: Please be civil, brief and relevant.

    Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. All comments are moderated. Weekend America reserves the right to edit any comments on this site and to read them on the air if they are extra-interesting. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting.

      Form is no longer active

     

    You must be 13 or over to submit information to American Public Media. The information entered into this form will not be used to send unsolicited email and will not be sold to a third party. For more information see Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Download Weekend America

Weekend Weather

From the January 31 broadcast

Support American Public Media with your Amazon.com purchases
Search Amazon.com:
Keywords:
 ©2015 American Public Media