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Convicts banned from tribe

HIGHLAND, Calif. – Two tribal members convicted for their roles in a murder for hire plot have been banned from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Reservation.

A majority of the tribe’s general council, which is made up of adult tribal members that are over 21, voted to ban and fine 36-year old Erik Barajas and his sister Stacy Cheyenne Nunez Barajas, 26, in a referendum Dec. 13, said Jacob Coin, the tribe’s director of public affairs.

The council based the decision on a disorderly conduct ordinance written in their constitution, Coin said.

“The chairman (James Ramos) has stated quite clearly that the tribal government will hold tribal members accountable for their actions,” Coin said. The tribe is a major contributor to regional charities and nonprofits in California’s Inland Empire.

The siblings’ conviction came when they agreed to plea bargains April 17 for conspiring to orchestrate the murder of a bar manager in 2006 following a confrontation. Both are gang members, according to court documents.

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The U.S. Drug and Enforcement Agency and police linked the siblings to members of the Mexican Mafia and the local methamphetamine trade in that case.

They both received five years of probation. She was sentenced to one year in jail and he was sentenced to six months, which could be served by electronic monitoring, according to the plea bargain. Nunez Barajas, however, remains in jail on a charge of violating her probation Nov. 21 after she was arrested in the parking lot of the tribe’s casino, from which she had been banned.

The release of details of the tribe’s decision was unusual.

“It’s rather extraordinary that the tribe will even discuss this. It’s truly unprecedented,” Coin said and declined to disclose the amount of the fine or the duration of the ban.

Meanwhile an attorney for the alleged victim in the case, Leonard Epps, proposed a new complaint Jan. 20 that would enhance the existing $50 million lawsuit against the siblings to include the tribe and its casino. Frank Peterson, the attorney, said he learned through 2006 law enforcement files that the murder plot was partly planned in the casino’s VIP lounge by passing out high school pictures of Epps.

“Hey you got your protocol: no meetings unless they are approved by the tribe or general manager. They violated their own protocol therefore they are negligent,” Peterson said.