The Many Faces of L.A.’s George Torres

To many, he was known as the most dangerous man in Los Angeles. To others, he was a simple grocery store owner. But who was George Torres really? This is the story of his alleged underground empire.

Born and raised in East L.A., Torres quickly rose to prominence in the late 1990s and early 2000s as the head of an alleged underworld empire. His reputation was built on fear—fear of his alleged ties to Mexican organized crime, fear of his connections to some of the city’s most powerful figures, and fear of his temper. But through it all, Torres maintained that he was just a simple grocery store owner trying to make an honest living. So, what was the truth?

The early years:
George Torres was born in East Los Angeles in 1965 to Mexican immigrant parents. He dropped out of high school in the 10th grade and began working at his father’s small grocery store. In the early 1990s, he took over the business when his father retired. From there, he started to expand his operations, opening additional stores throughout the city. It was during this period that he began to make a name for himself—not only as a successful businessman, but also as someone who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.

The rise to power:
Torres’ reputation as a dangerous man began to take hold in the late 1990s when he was allegedly connected to Mexican organized crime. This period also saw him expand his business interests beyond grocery stores and into nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. It was around this time that he began to cultivate relationships with some of Los Angeles’ most powerful figures, including police officers and politicians. His influence continued to grow throughout the early 2000s as allegations of violence and extortion began to surface. In 2003, he was arrested on federal racketeering charges but was ultimately acquitted after a trial. Despite these brushes with the law, Torres always maintained that he was just a simple grocery store owner—an image that many found hard to believe given his reputation.

The fall from power:
Torres’ downfall began in 2006 when he was convicted on state charges of conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Two years later, he pleaded guilty to federal charges of racketeering and tax evasion and was sentenced to an additional 12 years in prison. He is currently incarcerated at a maximum-security prison in Colorado and is not eligible for parole until 2032.

George Torres led a fascinating—and at times frightening—life. While always maintaining that he was just a simple grocery store owner, prosecutors allege that he ran an underworld empire built on violence and intimidation. Whether you believe him or not, one thing is certain: George Torres will go down in history as one of Los Angeles’ most notorious gangsters.

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