Imperial Gangster leader will serve 87 months in prison
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org February 12, 2013 12:06PM
Updated: March 14, 2013 6:28AM
When Guillermo Briseno started volunteering at St. Catherine Hospital in Chicago in 2009, his work ethic quickly caught the attention of the staff.
They hired him for a part-time position, and he worked his way to a full-time job in radiology while also attending school to become an X-ray technician.
A federal judge was more concerned Tuesday with Briseno’s life before the hospital, however, which he spent leading the Imperial Gangsters’ drug dealing and shootings that left the residents of East Chicago in fear for their safety.
“This gang, from all that I can gather ... frankly was terrorizing the city of East Chicago,” U.S. District Judge Philip Simon said during Briseno’s sentencing hearing in Hammond.
Simon sentenced Briseno to 87 months in prison, although he did credit Briseno for leaving the gang, right around the time he started helping his grandfather during a stay at St. Catherine, and starting to turn his life around.
Briseno pleaded guilty last year to one count each of conspiracy to racketeer and possessing with the intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. As part of his plea agreement, he admitted that he held a leadership role in the gang.
He faced up to 20 years on the counts, although federal sentencing guidelines recommended a range of 108 months.
Briseno’s attorney, Stephen Scheele, argued for Briseno to serve the mandatory minimum of five years, noting that Briseno voluntarily left the gang and sought to live as a contributing member of society.
“He is embarrassed in many respects to the lifestyle he was leading,” Scheele said Tuesday.
Several St. Catherine employees sent letters in support of Briseno. The letters describe a man who volunteered full-time, helped an employee study for tests and help another employee fix her car.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nozick said that Briseno’s case differed from his co-defendants’ because he had taken steps to turn his life around. However, that can’t dismiss his criminal actions, Nozick said.
Evidence shows that Briseno had a hand in dealing cocaine along with marijuana, unlike other defendants, and that he was no mere foot soldier in the gang.
Judge Simon noted that the Imperial Gangsters are accused in 12 homicides, although the real number they’re responsible for is likely higher.
“I view this as a really serious case because of the effect it had on the community,” Simon said.
The judge ruled against Briseno’s request for five years but added that he likely would have gone higher than 87 months if it wasn’t for Briseno’s work at the hospital.