Gang members indicted for murder in Dodge City

Federal prosecutors in Kansas unsealed charges Friday against 23 members of a Dodge City, Kan., street gang, including counts alleging racketeering and murder.

Members of the Nortenos allegedly killed Israel Peralta and wounded another man near a Dodge City trailer park in June 2009, said U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom.

“They engaged in drug trafficking, robbery and even murder for the purpose of expanding their power, wealth and influence,” Grissom said.

The indictment culminated a two-year investigation of the Nortenos by Dodge City police; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and other law enforcement agencies.

The racketeering portion of the indictment includes numerous allegations of violent crimes, including murder, attempted murder and assault with a dangerous weapon.

The charges also contend that the Nortenos robbed Guatemalan immigrants who worked in nearby beef packing plants, finding them easy targets because the victims often did not use banks and tried to avoid contact with law enforcement.

Dodge City Police Chief Craig Mellecker said increased gang violence prompted authorities to open the investigation.

The federal indictment included counts against Jason Najera, 28, who is alleged to have been the leader of the Nortenos. Those facing murder allegations include Pedro Garcia, 25, Gonzalo Ramirez, 26, Russell Worthey, 23, and Anthony Wright, 26.

“Gangs of armed men will not be permitted to prey on the weak or to exchange fire while the rest of us scramble for cover,” Grissom said.