(DODGE CITY) (westernkansasnews.com) U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom today unsealed a federal indictment and announced the arrest of 23 alleged members of the Norteno gang in Dodge City Kansas. The indictment included four men who are charged in the June 8, 2009 shooting death of Israel Peralta and the attempted murder of three other men.
“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 extending their power, wealth and influence.”
The defendants are charged under the Federal RICO Act (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) The indictment is only the second time RICO has been used in the state of Kansas. It means that all members arrested will be charged in Federal court without the possibility of parole.
The 38 count indictment filed in Wichita includes counts alleging conspiracy to engage in racketeering, unlawful possession of a firearm after a felony conviction, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and other counts. Violent crimes alleged in the indictment include murder, attempted murder and assault with a dangerous weapon.
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.
U.S. Attorney Grissom said the Nortenos focused on the Guatemalan population because they don’t typically use banks and are fearful of law enforcement officers.
“We want everyone to know. If you are the victim of a crime, your immigration status is not important to us.” Ford County Sheriff Dean Bush said after the press conference. “What’s important to us is the fact that you’re a victim of a crime and we’re going to do everything we can do to help you at that point.”
The collective efforts hope the indictment sends a message that gang violence will not be tolerated.
“These indictments demonstrate ATF’s committment to ensuring that gangs involved in criminal enterprises, including the Nortenos, know they are not welcome in Dodge City,” Michael P. Gleysteen, ATF Special Agent in Charge, said. “We will utilize allour resources to eradicate criminal gangs from our communities.”
While acknowledging that there are still gang members out there, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today that law enforcement has made a significant dent in the population of Norteno gang members in Dodge City. If convicted 4 of the defendants could face the death penalty.