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June 15, 2015

Leader of Imperial Gangsters Sentenced to Life in Prison for Five Murders, One Attempted Murder, and Other Gang-Related Crimes

A leader of the Imperial Gangsters street gang was sentenced today to life in prison for five counts of murder in aid of racketeering and other RICO-related charges, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney David A. Capp of the Northern District of Indiana.

Juan Briseno, aka Tito, 25, of Hammond, Indiana, was sentenced by Chief Judge Philip P. Simon of the Northern District of Indiana to a total of six life sentences plus 10 years in prison. The sentences will run consecutively.

On March 6, 2015, a federal jury in the Northern District of Indiana convicted Briseno of engaging in a RICO conspiracy, engaging in a drug distribution conspiracy, five counts of murder in aid of racketeering, one count of attempted murder in aid of racketeering, and a firearms count related to the attempted murder.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Briseno was a leader of the 149th Street Imperial Gangsters, a violent clique of the Imperial Gangsters based in East Chicago, Indiana. In his leadership role, Briseno supervised prospective gang members known as “shorties.”

The evidence showed that the Imperial Gangsters had a long-standing rule that gang members were to shoot rival gang members on sight, and that they had a policy to shoot anyone selling drugs in their neighborhood when such persons had not either purchased the drugs from the Imperial Gangsters or paid “taxes” to the gang for the right to sell drugs in their territory. The five murders of which Briseno was convicted were committed consistent with these directives.

According to witness testimony, Briseno expressed no remorse for his participation in various murders. Indeed, he bragged about killings and encouraged others to do the same.

With regard to the specific murders, the evidence at trial demonstrated that, on Sept. 26, 2007, Briseno knocked on Luis Ortiz’s apartment door in Hammond, Indiana, and shot him dead in the doorway. According to the evidence presented at trial, Briseno targeted Ortiz because he was a member of the rival Latin King Street Gang.

Additionally, the evidence showed that, on June 3, 2008, Briseno killed both Miguel Mejias, a former member of the Latin Kings, and Michael Sessum, an associate of Mejias, while they were unarmed and bringing takeout food to their pregnant girlfriends. According to the evidence presented at trial, Briseno fired multiple shots into Mejias’ residence, striking a female victim in the arm while she was holding her infant child. Another pregnant female victim and multiple minor victims also were inside the apartment at the time. According to testimony presented at trial, in the weeks prior to the confrontation, Mejias implored a common friend to tell Briseno that Mejias was no longer “gangbanging” and did not want any trouble. In response to this message, Briseno said, “[expletive] him, he was going to bring [Latin] Kings into our neighborhood.”

The evidence at trial also demonstrated that, on Feb. 7, 2010, Briseno and his associates murdered rival Two-Six gang member Miguel Colonas he was leaving a party in the Harbor Area of East Chicago. In this incident, Briseno and several associates laid in wait for Colon to leave the party, and then shot the unsuspecting Colon from a vehicle.

Finally, the evidence at trial demonstrated that, on June 19, 2010, Briseno murdered Latroy Howard because he was selling drugs in Imperial Gangster territory. A video introduced at trial showed Briseno’s vehicle circling the block several times prior to the murder, and then showed Briseno confronting Howard on foot and shooting him twice in the head at point-blank range.

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI; and the East Chicago Police Department. The Gary, Indiana, Police Department; the Hammond Police Department; and the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program provided assistance. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. Nozick of the Northern District of Indiana and Trial Attorney Bruce R. Hegyi of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Section.

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