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Gangsters plead guilty to RICO charges

ATLANTA - Two members of the Brownside Locos pleaded guilty in federal court this week to charges of RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization) conspiracy, which included their involvement in three Gwinnett County gang-related murders, according to press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Georgia.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said both men will most likely be tried on the state level in Gwinnett County as well, as they have admitted guilt in federal court.

The federal case was indicted in November 2002.

Alex Romero, aka Stranger, 29, of Lawrenceville, pleaded guilty to the July 2001 drive-by murder of Karlin Antunez and the October 2002 murder of Aldo Vallejo, which occurred in a gun battle between two cars.

He is facing state charges for the July 2001 murder and will most likely be formerly charged and tried for the October 2002 murder, Porter said.

Ruben Hernandez, aka Boxer, 25, of Lawrenceville, pleaded guilty to the May 1998 drive-by shooting murder of Ricardo Meza. It is likely he will be tried for that crime on the state level as well, Porter said.

"We want to see their sentences before we decide what we're going to do," Porter said Friday.

The two are scheduled for their federal sentencing Jan. 4, said Patrick Crosby, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"The Brownside Locos have been dismantled," U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said in a press release. "The stock in trade of 'Brownside Locos' was fear. The gang's purpose, and what they cared about, was to terrorize people who they thought were rival gang members. It didn't matter if the person who they scared, hurt or killed turned out not to be a rival gang member, but an innocent person instead. Stopping gang-related intimidation and fear will continue to be a focus of federal law enforcement in North Georgia."

Porter said the recommendation on the federal level should be 40 years each, which doesn't include any time they may incur from state charges tried in Gwinnett County.

It doesn't appear that either of the men meet the criteria to seek the death penalty, Porter said.

Life in prison is the appropriate sentence, he said.

As for the rest of the gang, Hernandez and Romero are the final two defendants out of 12 arrested in the Brownside Locos federal gang case, and other members have pleaded guilty to racketeering, Crosby said.

Israel Talavera aka Puppet, pleaded guilty for his involvement in the 2002 murder, and Carlos Maynard-Reyes, aka Smokey, pleaded guilty for his involvement in the Antunez murder in 2001 - both of which Romero pleaded guilty to.

One of the defendants, Julio Ramos, aka Sleepy, is at large and believed to be in Mexico.