Judge slashes Chicago gang leader's sentence

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A federal judge cut in half the prison sentence of a notorious Chicago street gang leader. (WLS)

A federal judge cut in half the prison sentence of a notorious Chicago street gang leader.

Chicago gang leader Alex Somarriba has learned the valuable lesson that when dealing with federal prosecutors, it sometimes pays to play. When Somarriba was arrested in 2014, he offered up some information about some of the dozen murders that his gang was involved in.

On Wednesday, that play paid off. A federal judge in Miami where the case was charged cut his prison sentence in half. Somarriba is known as "a rock" for his prowess in the crack cocaine business.

His "imperial gangsters" may be decked out in pink and use a cartoon character as a logo, but authorities say they are one of the most merciless criminal organizations in America.

Three years ago when Somarriba and several of his co-leaders were arrested, investigators said they were responsible for a racketeering empire that had committed more than a dozen murders in Chicago, East Chicago, Ind., and South Florida, where the case was prosecuted.

In 2015, Somarriba took a plea deal that included a 20-year prison sentence and he has been locked up here in the federal detention center in Miami.

The government recently filed this unusual request for a sentence reduction: two years after the original deal, they wanted him to get 50-percent off his term because he had "provided information on two murders ...correctly identifying all those responsible."

On Wednesday in Miami, federal judge Cecilia Altonaga granted the motion for the Chicago gangster's sentence to be reduced to 10 years with credit for the time he has already spent behind bars, 30-year old Somarriba could be free in less than eight years.

The judge's leniency comes despite Somarriba's gang having committed coast-to-coast chaos that left a trail of devastation. The gang's death toll includes 7-year-old Juana Nieto. Her life was ended by a gang bullet 20-years ago next month, as she waited on a warm spring day in Franklin Park to buy an ice cream. A 3-year-old boy, a 17-year-old and the ice cream truck driver were wounded.

It is not unusual for prosecutors to offer incentives to criminal cooperators, but the government has not explained why they would return to court years after a deal is consummated to request such a hefty sentence reduction. Prosecutors did not reply to messages left by the I-Team and Somarriba's attorney declined to comment about the decision.

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newsI-Teamgangsentencingu.s. & worldChicagoEast Chicago
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