Skip to main content
Press Release

Latin Dragon Nation Member Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Conspiracy Including Two Homicides

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Indiana

HAMMOND- Ralph Mendez, Jr., 24, of Chicago, Illinois, pled guilty 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.

In the plea agreement, the parties agree that Mendez, Jr., should serve a sentence of 42.5 years imprisonment.

“Mendez, Jr.’s guilty plea is a successful resolution to this case,” said U.S. Attorney Kirsch.  “Many people were victimized and some died as a result of Mr. Mendez, Jr’s actions.  He will face the consequences of his actions.  I am pleased with our law enforcement team’s work on this case.”

In the plea agreement, 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 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 Joseph A. Cooley and Kevin F. Wolff and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Toth, with prior assistance from the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section Trial Attorneys Robert Tully, Andrew Creighton, and Hans Miller.

Updated June 16, 2020

Violent Crime