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Press Release

Norteño Gang Member Sentenced To 17 Years And Six Months In Prison For RICO Conspiracy And Use Of Firearms

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California
Defendant admitted to “hunting” for and shooting at rival gang members.

SAN JOSE – Julian Ruiz was sentenced today to 210 months in prison for his role in a racketeering conspiracy and for using or possessing firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence, announced United States Attorney Alex G. Tse and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.  The sentence was handed down earlier today by the Honorable Lucy H. Koh, U.S. District Judge.

“Mr. Ruiz and the East Las Casitas gang have committed horrible acts of violence against the public,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tse.  “This prosecution and today’s appropriate sentence will hopefully provide solace to the victims, their families, and the Salinas community.”

“This sentencing is a testament to our dedication to get members of violent gangs and criminal organizations off the street and out of our communities," said Special Agent in Charge Bennett of the FBI's San Francisco Division. “Those who facilitate violent acts by racketeering and other means cannot and will not be tolerated.”

On December 6, 2017, Ruiz, 29, of Salinas, pleaded guilty to two counts of racketeering conspiracy; using or possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A); and aiding and abetting the use or possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and 2.  According to the plea agreement, Ruiz admitted to being a member of the Norteño street gang clique known as “East Las Casitas” or “ELC” since at least 2006.  Along with other Norteño cliques in Salinas, the ELC committed acts of violence for the benefit of the gang including murder, attempted murder, and robbery.  Among other acts of violence, members of ELC sought to attack and kill members of rival Sureño gangs, as well as members of other rival gangs.

The racketeering-related attempted murders to which Ruiz pleaded guilty took place over a one-month period in 2009.  On September 15, 2009, Ruiz was in a car hunting for Sureños to shoot, and spotted a suspected Sureño on a bicycle in front of an apartment complex.  Ruiz used a handgun to fire multiple shots at the suspected Sureño as he fled on foot.  A few weeks later, on October 3, 2009, Ruiz participated in the attempted murder of a rival gang member from the Fremont gang.  After learning that an ELC hang out was shot into, and suspecting the shooting was done by Fremont gang members, Ruiz agreed to shoot at and attempted to kill additional Fremont gang members.  Ruiz went to the home of a Fremont gang member, kicked the front door open, and opened fire at two Fremont gang members inside.  Ruiz shot one victim in the stomach and shoulder and the other victim in the left arm.  

On October 28, 2015, a grand jury charged Ruiz with one count of racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); one count of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5); one count of conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(6); and one count of use of firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) and 2.  Pursuant to his plea agreement, Ruiz pleaded guilty to one of the racketeering charges and the firearms charge. The investigation leading to the indictment was part of the FBI’s crackdown on Norteño gangs in Monterey County.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Koh also sentenced Ruiz to a five-year period of supervised release, to commence after Ruiz completes his prison sentence.  Ruiz has been in federal custody since December 1, 2015, and will begin serving his sentence immediately.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Hopkins, Christiaan Highsmith, and Stephen Meyer are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Nina Burney Williams, Adria Trgovich, and Lance Libatique.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI and Salinas Police Department.

Updated March 1, 2018