Crime & Courts

Federal charges of racketeering, murder brought against gang in Dodge City

A federal indictment unsealed Friday alleges Norteno gang members in Dodge City were involved in racketeering and murder, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

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,” Grissom said. “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 and threats of violence. The defendants are charged under a federal law called the RICO (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.”

Dodge City Police Chief Craig Mellecker said the investigation was the result of ongoing violent gang problems in Dodge City.

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, and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Among the violent crimes alleged in the indictment are the following:

•  June 8, 2009: Murder of Israel Peralta

•  June 8, 2009: Attempted murder of Mariano Sorano, Faustino Peralta and Roberto Arco

•  June 8, 2009: Assault with a dangerous weapon upon Isidro Raleas-Velasquez

•  Oct. 4, 2008: Attempted murder of Rumalda Hipolito and Abel Hernandez

•  March 29, 2010: Assault with a dangerous weapon upon Jose Arreola

•  March 15, 2011: Attempted murder of Reyes Delira-Padilla

•  March 30, 2011: Attempted murder of George Gonzalez

•  April 30, 2011: Assault with a dangerous weapon upon Jose Santaella and Santos Gutierrez

•  Aug. 27, 2011: Attempted murder of Gabriel Rivera and Carlos Ramirez

•  July 2, 2008: Assault with a dangerous weapon upon Bryant Licon

•  Feb. 5, 2012: Assault with a dangerous weapon upon Reyes Bocanegra.

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.”

Defendants named in the indictment face varying charges. The defendants, all from Dodge City, include:

Jason Najera, 28, who is alleged to have been the leader of the Nortenos; Pedro Garcia, 25, whose charges include murder; Gonzalo Ramirez, 26, whose charges include murder; Russell Worthey, 23, whose charges include murder; Anthony Wright, 26, whose charges include murder; Joshua Flores, 24; Jesus Flores, 26; Angel Cerda, 26; Juan Torres, 21; Alfredo Beltran-Ruiz, 21; Donte Barnes, 20; Jesus Sanchez, 22; Enrique Gobin, 22; Alfonso Banda-Hernandez, 19; Andrew Gusman, 19; Eusebio Sierra-Medrano, 31; Jayson Vargas, 29; Adam Flores, age unknown; Fabian Neave, 25; Jesus Torres, 28; Jose Neave, 22; Hernan Quezada, 29; and Humberto Ortiz, 19.