(STL.News) – Ralph Mendez, Jr., 24, of Chicago, Illinois, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon to 510 months in prison following his guilty plea to conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity as a member of the Latin Dragons Nation street gang, including admitting responsibility for two homicides, announced U.S. Attorney Kirsch.
According to documents in the case, Mendez, Jr., admitted to being a member of the Latin Dragon Nation street gang since approximately 2014. As a member of the gang, Mendez, Jr., participated in shootings of suspected gang members and associates, in addition to drug and firearms trafficking. On May 23, 2017, while accompanied by others, Mendez, Jr., left Hammond, Indiana, in a stolen vehicle to go to a rival gang neighborhood in Chicago. Upon arriving, he shot Jose Gomez, a suspected rival gang member, resulting in his death. On July 14, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois, Mendez, Jr., was accompanied by others when he fired in excess of 15 shots at four people whom he suspected were rival gang members or associates, resulting in the death of Mike Whitford and resulting in another victim being shot in the neck. From 2014 through 2017, Mendez, Jr., also accompanied others on shootings and himself shot four additional victims, including shooting one victim in the back as he attempted to flee.
“This sentence should send a loud message that if you are involved in illegal and violent activity in our communities, federal law enforcement is coming for you,” said FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan. “I am extremely proud of the work of our agents and law enforcement partners who worked tirelessly on this case to ultimately hold the defendant accountable for his actions.”
“Violence, including firearms and narcotics trafficking, will not be tolerated by the community of Hammond,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Kristen de Tineo of the Chicago Field Division. “Coordination among local, state and federal law enforcement as well as across state lines between Indiana and Illinois is an effective force multiplier in ensuring gang members are held accountable for the violence they perpetrate.”
This case is the result of the investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Chicago Police Department Criminal Enterprise Unit; the Cook County Sheriff’s Office; the Bartlett Police Department; the Hammond Police Department; the East Chicago Police Department; the Merrillville Police Department; the Hobart Police Department; the Lake County Sheriff’s Department; and the Calumet City Police Department, with assistance from the Lake County, Indiana Prosecutor’s Office, the Cook County, Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office, the Indiana Department of Corrections, and the Illinois Department of Corrections. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin F. Wolff and Maria N. Lerner and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Toth, with prior assistance from former Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph A. Cooley.