Feds: Indicted Kan. gang thrived by fomenting fear

May 11, 2012, 9:40 PM

Associated Press

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) – Nearly two dozen members of a Hispanic gang were arrested in Kansas this week under a federal grand jury indictment accusing them of victimizing illegal immigrants who do their business in cash and are reluctant to go to law enforcement because of their immigration status.

Federal officials have long been keeping an eye on the Dodge City area, which has become a hub for drug trafficking in the Midwest because of its remote location and easy access to places like Denver, Kansas City and Oklahoma City. They say gangs have thrived in the area because police lacked resources, including Spanish-speaking officers, and gang members are able to easily blend into the growing Hispanic population.

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said all but one of the 23 members of the Nortenos gang arrested are first- or second-generation U.S. citizens. He said they preyed on illegal immigrants who were vulnerable and unlikely to seek police protection, using violence and threats to create a climate of fear, defend the gang’s reputation and territory and promote its drug trafficking activities.

“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.”

The gang is charged under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, which allows prosecutors to charge individual members as part of a larger criminal organization. In recent years, the act has been used to prosecute human trafficking and gang cases, including charges in 2007 against 28 members of the Crips gang in Wichita _ which was the first time RICO was used against gangs in Kansas.

Grissom announced the indictment handed down “some time ago under seal” on Friday after it was unsealed the day before. It charges four of the men with murder in the June 2009 slaying of Israel Peralta and attempted murder of three others who were with Peralta when he was shot to death. Gang members also face other attempted murder, assault with a dangerous weapon and drug charges. They are accused of methamphetamine trafficking, identified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as the state’s fastest growing drug threat.

The agency also has identified Mexican drug trafficking organizations as the biggest threat to Kansas, citing a lack of law enforcement resources and the ease with which gang members assimilate with growing Hispanic populations who come to work at meatpacking plants and feed yards in the southwest corner of the state.

Dodge City Police Chief Craig Mellecker estimated there are between 300 and 500 known gang members in Dodge City and acknowledged his department is woefully short in officers who are fluent in Spanish.

“We have a translator program in which translators are on call,” he said. “We have five Spanish-speaking employees.”

The Nortenos gang, however, originated in California prisons, not in Mexico.

“This is something that developed and was born in the States and migrated across the southwest as the Hispanic population has grown,” Grissom said.

Among those arrested in sweeps this week is alleged gang leader Jason Najera, 28. Those charged with murder are Pedro Garcia, 25; Gonzalo Ramirez, 26; Russell Worthey, 23; and Anthony Wright, 26. All of those indicted live in Dodge City and range in age from 19 to 31 years old.

Grissom, who was in Dodge City to announce the charges, said the indictment is the result of a two-year investigation with the Dodge City Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and several other local and state agencies. He said it sends a message to gang members in Dodge City that local residents “shall not live in fear.”

“Our streets are not a war zone,” he said. “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.”

All but one of the men named in the indictment are being held in various jails around Wichita. One suspect is not yet in custody.

Jim Cross, a spokesman for Grissom, said none of the men have attorneys and probably won’t until after they appear in federal court in Wichita, where the case will be tried.

Grissom said federal officers weren’t concerned about the immigration status of the victims, who were a prime target for the Nortenos because they were afraid to report criminal acts to law enforcement.

“That’s why I believe most of the gang activity here exists,” Grissom said. “The gang had a ready-made group to prey upon.”

A RICO conviction has a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison without parole and a $250,000 fine. The maximum sentence for a murder conviction is death.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Associated Press

Today in History: June 26, first Harry Potter book published

Today in History Today is Sunday, June 26, the 177th day of 2022. There are 188 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On June 26, 1945, the charter of the United Nations was signed by 50 countries in San Francisco. On this date: In 1917, the first troops of the American Expeditionary […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Rep. Mary Miller calls Roe decision ‘victory for white life’

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Rep. Mary Miller of Illinois, speaking at a rally Saturday night with former President Donald Trump, called the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade a “victory for white life.” Miller’s spokesman said the Illinois Republican had intended to say the decision was a victory for a “right to life.” […]
21 hours ago
FILE - This Sept. 20, 2017, file photo shows a sign at the Disney store on the Champs Elysees Avenu...
Associated Press

Abortion ruling thrusts companies into divisive arena

The Supreme Court’s decision to end the nation’s constitutional protections for abortion has catapulted businesses of all types into the most divisive corner of politics. Some companies that stayed silent last month — when a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito was leaked to Politico — spoke up for the first time Friday, including The […]
21 hours ago
FILE - This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Pr...
Associated Press

WHO panel says Monkeypox is not a global emergency ‘at this stage’

LONDON (AP) — The World Health Organization said the escalating monkeypox outbreak in more than 50 countries should be closely monitored but does not warrant being declared a global health emergency. In a statement Saturday, a WHO emergency committee said many aspects of the outbreak were “unusual” and acknowledged that monkeypox — which is endemic […]
21 hours ago
Police in riot gear surround the Arizona Capitol after protesters reached the front of the Arizona ...
Associated Press

Dueling narratives of Arizona protests ended with tear gas

PHOENIX (AP) — Protests outside the Arizona Capitol over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade that ended with a volley of tear gas were variously described Saturday as either peaceful or driven by anarchists intent on destruction. Republican Senate President Karen Fann issued a news release describing it as a thwarted […]
21 hours ago
Emergency personnel look over the sight of a  helicopter that crashed in Blair, W.Va., on Thursday,...
Associated Press

West Virginia helicopter crash victims identified

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Medical examiners in West Virginia have released the names of six people killed in the crash of a Vietnam-era helicopter that gave tour rides. The aircraft crashed Wednesday during its last planned flight at an annual reunion for helicopter enthusiasts in Logan County. All six people aboard were killed. The state’s […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
Feds: Indicted Kan. gang thrived by fomenting fear