Friday, May 11, 2012
A federal grand jury has indicted 23 suspected gang members on racketeering charges in only the second case in which the federal racketeering law has been used against a Kansas gang.
U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says the indictment against the Norteno gang also charges four of the men with the June 2009 murder of Israel Peralta and attempted murder of at least three other men in Dodge City. The indictment was obtained by The Associated Press before its official release.
Former U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren first used the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to prosecute 28 members of the Crips gang in Wichita in 2007.
Congress enacted RICO in 1970 to target the Mafia, and the law has been used in human trafficking and gang cases.K
KAKE's Lily Wu is attending a news conference in Dodge City. Watch for updates here and on KAKE.
U.S. Attorney News Release on indictments:
A federal indictment unsealed today alleges Norteno gang members in Dodge City, Kan., were involved in racketeering and murder, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.
The indictment names 23 defendants, including four who are charged with the June 8, 2009, murder of Israel Peralta and the attempted murder of three other men. Peralta was shot to death as he and his friends were sitting outside in a trailer park on the south side of Dodge City. One of the men with Peralta was wounded by gunfire during the attack.
“This indictment alleges the Nortenos operated a criminal enterprise in Dodge City,” said U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom. “They engaged in drug trafficking, robbery and even murder for the purpose of expanding their power, wealth and influence.”
The indictment alleges members of the Nortenos built the gang’s reputation in Dodge City, defended its territory, and promoted its drug trafficking activities by creating a climate of fear through acts of violence and threats of violence. The defendants are charged under a federal law called the RICO Act (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act). The indictment marks only the second time federal prosecutors in Kansas have filed charges under RICO and VICAR, violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity.
The indictment is based on a two-year investigation in which the Dodge City Police Department teamed up with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other local, state and federal agencies to build the case.
“This indictment sends a message, “ Grissom said. “Dodge City residents shall not live in fear. Our streets are not a war zone. Gangs of armed men will not be permitted to prey on the weak or to exchange fire while the rest of us scramble for cover.”
“This investigation was initiated due to the ongoing violent criminal street gang problems occurring in Dodge City,” said Craig Mellecker, Dodge City Police Chief. “The Dodge City Police Department is committed to taking enforcement action to rid our community of these violent street gangs. The citizens of Dodge City deserve to live in a safe community.”
The 38-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Wichita includes counts alleging conspiracy to engage in racketeering, violent crimes in furtherance of racketeering, unlawful possession of a firearm after a felony conviction, brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and other counts. Among the violent crimes alleged in the indictment are the following:
Six counts of the indictment focus on alleged armed robberies. The indictment alleges Nortenos committed assaults with dangerous weapons and brandished firearms while robbing Guatemalan residents of Dodge City in their homes.
“The indictment alleges members of the Nortenos preyed on Guatemalan immigrants who work in the beef packing plants in Dodge City,” Grissom said. “It is well known among the Nortenos that many of the Guatemalan workers do not use banks and try to avoid contact with law enforcement officers. They are smaller in stature and they are unlikely to be armed.”
Michael P. Gleysteen, ATF Special Agent in Charge, said: “These indictments demonstrate ATF’s commitment to ensuring that gangs involved in criminal enterprises, including the Nortenos, know they are not welcome in Dodge City. We will utilize all our resources to eradicate criminal gangs from our communities.”
Defendants named in the indictment face varying charges depending on their alleged involvement in unlawful acts. The defendants include:
Upon conviction crimes carry the following penalties:
Conspiracy: A maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $250,000.
Violent crimes in furtherance of racketeering: A maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $250,000; or a maximum penalty of 10 years and a fine up to $250,000 depending on the type of violent crime.
Murder in furtherance of racketeering: A maximum penalty of death, or life in prison, and a fine up to $250,000.
Possession or discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence: Not less than five years and a fine up to $250,000.
Possession in furtherance of drug trafficking: Not less than five years and a fine up to $250,000.
Conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in furtherance of racketeering: A maximum penalty of three years and a fine up to $250,000.
Unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition after a felony conviction: A maximum penalty of 10 years and a fine up to $250,000.
Possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine: A maximum penalty of 20 years and a fine up to $1 million.