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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gang Member And Robber Sentenced In Manhattan Federal Court To 25 Years On Racketeering, Robbery, Narcotics, And Firearms Charges

Defendant Was Convicted At Trial Of Crimes He Committed With The Manhattan-Based Los Vagos Street Gang And A Bronx-Based Robbery Crew

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that RUDY MENDOZA, 29, was sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to 25 years in prison for racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, robbery conspiracy, and firearms charges. MENDOZA was convicted after a nine-day trial in November 2013. The Honorable Colleen McMahon imposed today’s sentence.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Within months of being released from state prison, Rudy Mendoza rejoined the Los Vagos street gang and attempted to participate in an armed robbery. Multi-agency cooperation and coordination, including the effective use of an ATF undercover agent, ensured that a violent criminal was prevented from causing harm and has been held accountable for the full scope of his crimes.”

In September 2011, a few months after being released from state prison in March 2011, MENDOZA and five other members of a Bronx-based robbery crew were arrested as part of an undercover investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) in connection with a plan to conduct an armed robbery of cocaine dealers. MENDOZA and three of his co-conspirators who were arrested on their way to the planned robbery each possessed a loaded handgun.

At the time of MENDOZA’s arrest in the robbery case, he had already been identified in a separate investigation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) as a member of the Los Vagos street gang, a criminal organization comprising Mexican and Mexican-American members based primarily in East Harlem. Wiretapped telephone calls in the HSI case revealed that the handgun the ATF seized from MENDOZA belonged to the Los Vagos gang.

In November 2011, MENDOZA and 11 other members and associates of the Los Vagos gang were charged with racketeering conspiracy, murder conspiracy, firearms, and narcotics offenses.

The evidence at trial revealed MENDOZA’s active participation in the robbery crew, and the inner workings of the Los Vagos gang. Shortly before he expected to commit the robbery, MENDOZA assured the ATF undercover agent that he was prepared to violently assault the drug dealers his crew planned to rob. Former Los Vagos gang members testified about MENDOZA’s role in the gang, which included supplying cocaine for the leader of the gang to resell. The former gang members also described the full scope of the Los Vagos gang’s criminal activities, including acts of violence such as beatings, stabbings, and shootings, to protect their members from rival gangs, including the Latin Kings, and to dissuade rival gangs from encroaching on their territory. The gang also extorted or robbed individuals who lived or worked in their territory, and collected dues from members in order to buy firearms and to assist gang members who had been incarcerated or who wished to return to the United States from Mexico illegally.

With MENDOZA’s conviction at trial, all six charged members of the robbery crew and all twelve charged members and associates of the Los Vagos gang have been convicted.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the ATF, HSI, and the New York City Police Department. He also thanked the New York County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance.

The prosecution of the cases is being overseen by the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amie N. Ely and Amy Lester are in charge of the prosecution.

Press Release Number: 
14-323
Updated May 15, 2015