NEW YORK — A member of a violent street gang was sentenced to 25 years in prison at the federal courthouse in Manhattan Nov. 5. This sentence stems from joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the New York City Police Department (NYPD).
A federal judge sentenced Rudy Mendoza, 29, following his conviction in a nine day trial in November 2013 for racketeering conspiracy, narcotics conspiracy, robbery conspiracy, and firearms charges.
In September 2011, a few months after federal officials released him 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 ATF in connection with a plan to conduct an armed robbery of cocaine dealers. Federal agents arrested Mendoza and three of his co-conspirators 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 HSI as a member of the Los Vagos street gang, a criminal organization comprising of 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 12 charged members and associates of the Los Vagos gang have been convicted. The case was worked jointly by HSI, ATF and the New York City Police Department