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Federal indictment details gang activity in East Chicago

Updated: December 9, 2011 8:16AM



A 20-count indictment unsealed Monday charges that 12 alleged members of the Almighty Imperial Gangsters in East Chicago took part in racketeering, including in the deaths of nine people since 2006.

The indictment follows up one that was filed in June against Juan Briseno, of East Chicago, charging him with murder in aid of racketeering. That indictment said that on June 19, 2010, he shot and killed Latroy Howard, 31, who was believed to be part of the rival gang P-Stones, although he actually wasn’t.

The new indictment, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond and unsealed Monday, adds on eight homicides, six of which Briseno is specifically named in. He is charged with five counts each of murder in aid of racketeering and murder from a firearm that was part of a violent crime. Co-defendant Galo Benjamin Feliciano is charged with two counts each of the same charges, and co-defendant Joseph Rene Torres is charged with one count each of the same charges.

The indictment lists the victims as:

Juan Murillo Sr., of East Chicago, shot and killed on March 22, 2007 at his home as Feliciano was trying to steal a snowblower.

Luis Ortiz, shot and killed Sept. 26, 2007.

Michael Sessum, of Hammond, and Miguel Mejias, of East Chicago, shot and killed June 3, 2008. Sessum was found shot on the porch of an apartment building in East Chicago.

Harris Brown, killed Oct. 9, 2008.

Miguel Colon, of East Chicago, shot and killed Feb. 7, 2010,as he was leaving a party. Feliciano and Claudio Martinez have already been charged with his death in Lake County Courts.

Jesus Alvarez, of East Chicago, shot in the head March 26, 2010.

Peter Santos, killed on April 28, 2010.

The defendants believed Ortiz, Sessum, Mejias, Colon and Santos were members of rival gangs, the indictment says.

The murder charges mean that prosecutors could seek the death penalty for the three defendants if they are found guilty of the charges. A decision to do so, however, is up to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The three men, along with their other co-defendants — Guillermo Briseno, Alejandro Balboa Lara, Justin Weaver, Michael Anthony Castillo, Kelvin Jefferson Beltran, David Almaraz, Jason Medina and Edward Raye Serna — are all charged with one count of racketeering in connection with their alleged actions in the Imperial Gangsters. The indictment describes the Imperials as operating on 149th and 139th streets and taking part in murder, attempted murder and drug trafficking. New initiates to the gang had to either shoot someone or receive 70 punches to the chest to officially join the gang then pay dues, according to the indictment. Members would identify with each other by wearing the gang’s colors of pink and black, the gang’s symbol of the Pink Panther and by greeting each other with “amor.”

Along with listing dozens of times that the defendants had marijuana, the indictment also lists six shootings and attempted murders, and the possession of 700 rounds of ammunition.

Feliciano, Medina and Serna are also charged with one count each of attempted murder in aid of racketeering and the use of a firearm during a violent crime. Lara is also charged with two counts of distributing marijuana, and another co-defendant, Alejandro Briseno, is charged with one count of accessory after the fact in connection with helping Briseno and Feliciano avoid police after the shooting death of Miguel Colon.

A representative with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Hammond could not comment on the case except to say that more details would be released at a press conference Thursday.

Juan Briseno, who was arrested in June, has been held without bond since then. Feliciano, Beltran, Guillermo Briseno, Medina and Serna were all arrested Monday. They are all being held pending a detention hearing and arraignment scheduled for Thursday afternoon, according to court records.



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