Former Imperial Gangsters leader gets six life sentences for murders, other crimes

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A leader of the Imperial Gangsters street gang from northwest Indiana was sentenced to life in prison Monday after being convicted of five counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and other gang-related charges.

Juan “Tito” Briseno of Hammond, Ind., was sentenced to a total of six life sentences, plus 10 years, by Chief Judge Philip Simon of the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. The sentences will run consecutively.

Briseno, 25, was convicted March 6 of five counts of murder in aid of racketeering, one count of attempted murder in aid of racketeering, engaging in a drug distribution conspiracy, engaging in a RICO conspiracy, and a firearms count related to the attempted murder, federal prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Briseno was a leader of the East Chicago-based 149th Street Imperial Gangsters, and supervised prospective gang members, known as “shorties.”

Gang rules dictated that members were to shoot rival gang members on sight, and also shoot anyone selling drugs in their territory if that person had not purchased the drugs from the Imperial Gangsters or paid “taxes” to the gang, prosecutors said.

It was under these rules that Briseno committed the five murders, for which he expressed no remorse and even bragged, according to prosecutors.

On Sept. 26, 2007, Briseno knocked on Luis Ortiz’s apartment door in Hammond and fatally shot him in the doorway, prosecutors said. Evidence presented at trial revealed Briseno targeted Ortiz because he was a member of the Latin Kings.

On June 3, 2008, Briseno gunned down Miguel Mejias, a former Latin King; and Michael Sessum, an associate of Mejias, while they were unarmed and bringing takeout food to their pregnant girlfriends, prosecutors said. Briseno fired several shots into Mejias’ home, striking a female in the arm while she was holding her infant, while another pregnant female and multiple minors were also inside.

On Feb. 7, 2010, Briseno and his associates fatally shot Miguel Colonas, a member of the rival Two-Six gang, as he was leaving a party in the Harbor area of East Chicago, prosecutors said.

And on June 19, 2010, Briseno murdered Latroy Howard because he was selling drugs in Imperial Gangster territory, prosecutors said, adding that a video played during the trial showed Briseno’s vehicle circling the block several times, and then showed Briseno confronting Howard and shooting him twice in the head at point-blank range.

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