A leader of the Imperial Gangsters street gang was convicted by a federal jury in the Northern District of Indiana of five counts of murder in aid of racketeering, one count of attempted murder in aid of racketeering, one firearms count related to the attempted murder, one count of engaging in a RICO conspiracy, one count of engaging in a conspiracy to distribute narcotics, and related offenses.
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 made the announcement.
Juan Briseno aka “Tito”, 25, of Hammond, Indiana, was part of a 24-defendant indictment alleging that members of the Imperial Gangsters committed 13 homicides in East Chicago, Hammond and Gary, Indiana. The indictment also charged a decade-long racketeering conspiracy that involved 19 additional attempted murders and the large scale distribution of cocaine and marijuana. Sentencing is scheduled for June 15, before Chief Judge Philip P. Simon of the Northern District of Indiana.
According to evidence presented at trial, the Imperial Gangsters had a standing rule to shoot on sight any rival gang member. They also had a policy to shoot anyone selling drugs in their neighborhood without their permission. Briseno was convicted of five murders, which the evidence demonstrated were committed pursuant to the gang’s policies and in furtherance of the 149 th Street Imperial Gangsters, a violent clique of the Imperial Gangsters based in East Chicago.
The evidence further demonstrated that Briseno exercised a leadership role in the gang, in which he supervised the “shorties, or prospective members of the 149th Street Imperial Gangsters. Briseno expressed no remorse for his participation in various murders, and indeed bragged about killings and encouraged others to do the same.
With regard to the specific murders, the evidence at trial demonstrated that Briseno knocked on Luis Ortiz’s apartment door in Hammond, Indiana, on Sept. 26, 2007, and shot him dead in the doorway to the apartment. Briseno targeted Ortiz because he was a member of the rival Latin King Street Gang.
Additionally, the evidence demonstrated that Briseno committed the double murder of Miguel Mejias, a Latin King living in Imperial Gangster territory, and Michael Sessum, an associate of Mejias, while they were unarmed and bringing takeout food to their pregnant girlfriends on June 3, 2008. During that murder, multiple shots fired by Briseno entered Mejias’ residence, striking a female victim in the arm while she was holding her infant child. Another pregnant female victim and multiple minor victims were also in the apartment at the time of the shooting. According to testimony at trial, Mejias implored another individual to tell Briseno that he was no longer “gangbanging” and did not want any trouble. In response to this message, Briseno said, “[explecetive] him, he was going to bring [Latin] Kings into our neighborhood.”
The evidence at trial also demonstrated that Briseno and his associates murdered rival Two-Six gang member, Miguel Colon, on Feb. 7, 2010, as Colon came out of a party. In this incident, Briseno and Colon exchanged gunfire, endangering numerous innocent individuals who were in the vicinity.
Finally, the evidence at trial demonstrated that Briseno murdered Latroy Howard on June 19, 2010, for selling drugs in an Imperial Gangster-controlled neighborhood without the permission of the gang. A video introduced at trial showed Briseno circling the block in his car and then walking up on foot and shooting the unarmed Howard 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, with assistance from the Gary Police Department, the Hammond Police Department and the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program. 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.