HAMMOND- Ralph Mendez, 47, of Chicago, Illinois, was sentenced by United States District Court Judge Philip P. Simon following his guilty plea to conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity as a member of the Latin Dragons Nation street gang, announced United States Attorney Clifford D. Johnson.
Mendez was sentenced to 204 months of in prison followed by 2 years of supervised release.
According to documents in the case, Mendez, a Latin Dragon since approximately 1995, engaged in trafficking firearms, cocaine, and marijuana on behalf of the gang. He fought rival gang members, ordered beatings of gang members for rule violations, and recruited a former member to rejoin the gang. He illegally possessed firearms in furtherance of gang activity, and in 2017 he drove another Latin Dragon member from Hammond to a rival gang neighborhood in Chicago where the other member shot at two individuals, believing they were rival gang members. Mendez has prior felony convictions for murder, armed robbery, possession of a controlled substance, and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.
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 Maria N. Lerner, Michael J. Toth, and Kevin F. Wolff, with prior assistance from former Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph A. Cooley.
This case was prosecuted as part of the joint federal, state, and local Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) Program, the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.