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Hammond man sentenced to 8 years for role in street gang

Updated: February 18, 2013 9:24PM



A Hammond man will spend a little more than eight years in prison in connection with his role in the Latin Kings street gang, including hiding a gun that was used in a murder.

U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano sentenced Victor Meza Jr. Friday to 97 months in prison after federal attorneys filed a request that he be sentenced to less than the mandatory minimum of 10 years. Judges can go below mandatory minimums if a defendant has shown enough cooperation.

Federal sentencing guidelines had actually recommended that Meza serve about 21 to 27 years in prison; however, defense attorney Carrie Castro argued in a court filing that those guidelines unfairly counted Meza’s criminal history.

She also said in the filing that Meza only joined the Latin Kings when he was 14 because members of other street gangs expected him to, because he lived in a Latin Kings neighborhood, and were already targeting him. He was even shot at once, the filing says.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nozick also said in the government’s filing that Meza was penalized too much for his criminal history and supported a sentence of 96 to 120 months.

Meza pleaded guilty a year ago to one count each of conspiracy to racketeer and conspiracy to traffic more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana and 150 kilograms of cocaine.

Federal attorneys said in the indictment that Meza was caught twice with large quantities of drugs, including 100 pounds of pot in March 2010.

He was also accused of hiding a gun used to kill Jose Cortez in 2008, although his plea agreement says there is no evidence he knew the gun was used in a homicide.

He was also considered a minor participant in the case, which includes more than 20 defendants.

Meza is serving a three-year sentence in the Indiana Department of Corrections stemming from the March 2010 drug bust, and his federal sentence will run concurrently to his state sentence.



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