Friday, November 02, 2012

Semi–Automatic Firearm Sends Gang Member and Registered Sex Offender to Federal Prison

A Sioux City gang member and registered sex offender whose criminal activity was discovered as part of the investigation of a May 1, 2007, drive–by shooting in Sioux City, Iowa, was sentenced today to five years in federal prison.
Rocky Joe Grimaldo, 28, from Sioux City, Iowa, received the prison term after a July 12, 2012, guilty plea to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

According to information presented in court by the United States, sometime during April 2007, Victor Gutierrez, Jonathan Torres–Ortiz, Alejandro Guerrero–Valadez, Rocky Joe Grimaldo, a/k/a Grasshopper; Noel Perez–Plascencia, and Justin Albertsen, all members of a Sioux City street gang, traveled from Sioux City, Iowa, into the Nebraska countryside where they each possessed – and shot approximately 100 rounds from – a Norinco 7.62X39 mm SKS semi–automatic firearm with an obliterated serial number that was capable of accepting a large capacity magazine. Since Grimaldo had already been convicted of felony assault with intent to commit sexual abuse in Woodbury County, Iowa, his possession of a firearm violated federal law.

Grimaldo’s federal firearm crime was discovered as a part of the investigation of a May 1, 2007, Sioux City, Iowa drive–by shooting. On that day, Alejandro Guerrero–Valadez, Victor Gutierrez, a juvenile, and another man, perpetrated a gang–related drive–by shooting at a home in Sioux City, Iowa. The house was targeted because it was thought to be the home of a rival street gang member. The night of the drive–by shooting, the four men drove to the home. They drove by slowly once, but then reversed course and accelerated. As they passed the home the second time, Gutierrez fired numerous rounds out of the moving vehicle’s window at the victim’s home, cars, and garage. The occupied house, the garage, and the cars were hit several times with bullets.

Immediately after the drive–by shooting, the foursome hid the firearm at Justin Albertsen’s home. Later Gutierrez and another gang member told Jonathan Torress–Ortiz of the shooting and asked Ortiz to hide or destroy the gun. Ortiz hid the gun for the next six months and repeatedly lied to law enforcement about the gun’s location.

Sometime in early 2008, Grimaldo, and Albertsen, fled to Des Moines, Iowa, in the hope that they could escape prosecution for their federal crimes. In doing so, Grimaldo also violated his Dakota County, Nebraska, Probation for Possession of Burglary Tools. In the Spring of 2011, when Grimaldo was finally located by law enforcement, he, Albertsen, and another member of their street gang were in possession of, with the intent to distribute, 15 pounds of marijuana.

Grimaldo was sentenced in Sioux City by Senior United States District Court Judge Donald E. O’Brien. Grimaldo was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment. A special assessment of $100 was imposed. He must also serve a three–year term of supervised release after the prison term, during which time he may not associate with members or associates of any street gang. There is no parole in the federal system.

For their connections to the firearm: (1) on June 8, 2012, Albertsen, was sentenced to 32 months’ imprisonment and a special assessment of $100; (2) on March 23, 2009, Perez–Plascencia was sentenced to 57 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment; (3) on February 12, 2009, Gutierrez, the shooter during the drive–by, was sentenced to 150 months’ imprisonment and a special assessment of $600; and (4 and 5) on October 17, 2008, Valadez and Ortiz were both sentenced for their connection to the firearm. Valadez was sentenced to 63 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment. Ortiz was sentenced to 37 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment. All of these men must also serve three years’ supervised release following prison, during which time they may not associate with members or associates of any street gang.

Grimaldo is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to federal prison.

Court file information is available at The relevant case numbers are 08–4070; 07–4092; 07–4052; 08–4017; 08–4004; and 08– 4056.

This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a cooperative local, state, and federal program aimed at the enhanced prosecution of gun crimes. The case was investigated by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Department of Justice’s United States Marshals Service; the Department of Homeland Security; and Sioux City Police Department’s Gang Enforcement Unit. The case was prosecuted by Dakota County, Nebraska County Attorney Kim Watson and Assistant United States Attorney Forde Fairchild.

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