Feds add murder charges in Imperial Gangsters racketeering case
By Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com November 9, 2012 1:07PM
East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker (gesturing, near left) speaks with the extended family of murder victim Rene Alonzo after a press conference announcing indictments against eight alleged members of the Imperial Gangsters at the East Chicago Public Safety Facility in East Chicago, Ind. Friday November 9, 2012. U.S. Attorney David Capp announced indictments against a number of gang members, including Richard Reyes whom he said killed Alonzo in 2007. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 11, 2012 6:07AM
Rene Alonzo’s family has waited more than five years to see justice for his killing.
They, along with the families of three other victims, might finally receive it after the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced an expanded indictment in the East Chicago Imperial Gangsters racketeering case, including numerous murder counts connected to five more killings.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Richard Alonzo, Rene’s father, said after hearing about the announcement.
Federal attorneys had already charged 15 people in the case, most of whom were charged with conspiracy to racketeer and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana and 5 kilograms or more of cocaine. The eight new defendants also face the same charges.
Defendants in the case were already charged with murder counts connected to the killings of seven people. The new indictment adds five more, including:
Anuar David Paez, killed July 24, 2004, in East Chicago. Ace Cortez, 33, of East Chicago, faces two murder counts in connection to Paez’s killing.
Guadalupe Trevino, shot and killed as he and a friend were driving past Gary/Chicago International Airport on July 24, 2005. Jason Medina faces two counts of murder in the case.
Alonzo, shot and killed after he agreed to drive someone to the U.S. Sports bar on Adler Street in East Chicago on Sept. 16, 2007. Witnesses said someone in a red van driving by fired the shots. Richard Reyes, 40, of East Chicago, faces two counts of murder in the case.
Mario Soriano, killed on March 25, 2008, in Hammond. Julian Guillermo Serna, 23, of Munster, faces two counts of murder in the case.
The conspiracy count also says that unnamed members of the Imperial Gangsters shot and killed Martin Navarro on July 7, 2004, in East Chicago while the 17-year-old was standing on his front porch. It also says Julius Solis, 23, of East Chicago, murdered Alonzo Cavanoz on May 3, 2009, although no charges were filed specifically in connection with those crimes.
The indictment details other violent acts by the gangsters, including firebombing the house of a rival gang member and beating someone up because he refused to join the gang.
Juan Briseno, who already faced 10 counts of murder in connection to five killings, is now also charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of using a gun in relation to a violent crime. Another new defendant, Julius Solis, also faces one count each of attempted murder and use of a gun during a violent crime.
The indictment says Briseno has been in contact with his fellow gang members since his arrest more than two years ago, including telling them how to recruit new members, about the quality of drugs and the possibility that he might meet a new drug connection while in jail.
“We are determined to rid Northwest Indiana of these (criminals),” U.S. Attorney David Capp said Friday afternoon at a news conference announcing the indictment.
All the defendants charged with murder could face the death penalty, although a final decision to pursue that sentence would be made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Officials were supposed to discuss the possibility of doing so for Briseno at a meeting Monday in Washington, D.C. Capp said Friday he still does not have an answer on that but expects one soon.
Probe to continue
Capp said the investigation into the Imperial Gangsters remains ongoing. He credited the agencies involved — the FBI, ATF, Gary Police Department, East Chicago Police Department, Hammond Police Department and the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area — for their cooperative work in bringing more charges. He also praised Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nozick, who has been prosecuting the case since it was announced a year ago, for his effort.
East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker said recent crime statistics from the FBI featured East Chicago “prominently” and that he had been asked by the media about his reaction to that.
“A large part of my response is right here,” Becker said, pointing to the surrounding law enforcement officials. “Look at who’s standing up here, and unified we stand up here.”
Bob Jones, special agent in charge of the FBI office in Indianapolis, said the Imperial Gangsters had waged violence on the community for years.
“Not any more,” he said.
Four of the new defendants — Raymond Campos, 28, of East Chicago; Eddie Torres, 42, of East Chicago; Reyes; and Ace Cortez — were arrested Friday morning. The other new defendants — Salvador Chavez, 33, of Chicago; Darmaile Cortez Sutton, 29, of East Chicago; Serna; and Solis — were already in jail on other charges.
Capp said the government will move to detain all of them without bond pending trial.
Rene Alonzo’s family said the charges won’t bring him back, but they’re still happy to hear someone will be held responsible.
“It was great,” his father said of hearing the news. “... I always had hope that they would get the guy.”
He said his son was a hard union worker who was employed with his father and brother at BP. Rene worked every day to provide for his two children and girlfriend, Erica Renee Badillo, Richard Alonzo said. They lived together in Griffith, and he had plans to build a new house.
“He had no enemies,” Richard Alonzo said.
Badillo said their children have had to live with the pain of not seeing him again.
“The pain will always still be there,” she said. “It’s been tormenting my kids to be without their father.”