A convicted hit man who killed for the Mexican Mafia and is serving decades in state prison was given a police escort to Downtown Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon to address a group of local police chiefs and wealthy business leaders, authorities acknowledged.
Sources said the purpose behind the appearance of Rene Enriquez was to give first-hand insight to the group about the inner-workings of the criminal enterprise. Enriquez, who is known as "Boxer," worked his way up from enforcer to shot caller in the organization also known as La Eme before his arrest and conviction. He is currently serving two 20-to-life sentences for murder.
Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff Wednesday night called the episode "embarrassing" and said he will call for a "thorough investigation." The commission is the civilian body charged with overseeing the police department.
"There were some decisions made that in retrospect were the wrong decisions," Soboroff said.
A source who attended the session, which included a crowd of about 125, said Enriquez had the air of a corporate leader, providing "a rare look into life of a criminal corporate executive." The source, who asked not to be named, said Enriquez discussed "gang franchising, marketing, sales, merchandising and branding."
Enriquez is the subject of the book "The Black Hand: The Bloody Rise and Redemption of "Boxer" Enriquez, a Mexican Mob Killer." In 2003, Enriquez began helping authorities lay out the hierarchy and methods of the gang.
The cost of the secretive operation, including the police escort and securing the Spring Street location where Enriquez was brought, was not immediately known. Nor could anyone immediately say if something like had happened in the past, although some sources said they were unaware of similar session that went beyond immediate law enforcement officials or took place off-site.
A spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, who are responsible for Enriquez, had no immediate comment on the appearance, and was checking late Wednesday to see whether it had been approved.
Law enforcement sources familiar with the case said they did not publicize the event because of the potential to compromise officer and public safety. It was not immediately known why Enriquez was brought to address business leaders.
Beyond the LAPD, it was not immediately clear how many agencies were involved in the security operation. The LAPD did not comment on the specific topics of the session but explained it served an educational purpose.
"LAPD in conjunction with local police chiefs from Los Angeles County and Young Presidents Organization (YPO) met this evening with a convicted criminal who was part of an ongoing criminal enterprise," the LAPD said in a statement to NBC News.
The Young Presidents' Organization bills itself as "the world's premier peer network of chief executives and business leaders" on its website.
"The purpose was to learn how a transnational criminal enterprise was built, branded and marketed. Threats to our region remain terrorism and transnational criminal enterprises. It is the hope that we can learn and develop better strategies to counter these threats to our region," the police statement added.
(Reporting by Andrew Blankstein)