HAMMOND | A witness at Richard Reyes' federal trial on Thursday linked Reyes to three separate break-ins to steal money or drugs from dealers in Illinois and Indiana.
Ace Cortez, 34, of East Chicago, is one of 24 alleged members of the Imperial Gangsters indicted in the federal investigation. He's among 22 who have agreed to a plea deal to reduce his sentence.
Reyes, 41, of East Chicago, is accused of being involved in the murder of Rene Alonzo on Sept. 16, 2007. He has been charged with racketeering, conspiracy to deal cocaine and marijuana, murder in the aid of racketeering activity and murder resulting from the use of a firearm.
Cortez testified Thursday that he was with Reyes during two successful break-ins of known drug dealers, one in the late 1990s and another in the mid-2000s. Cortez also talked about a break-in in Gary where nothing of value was found.
Cortez testified the robberies were not related to the gang but were for personal financial gain.
Cortez said he visited Reyes at St. Catherine Hospital when he was recovering from a gunshot wound. He told the jury Reyes believed he was set up with bad information on a potential score when he was wounded.
Defense attorney Jack Friedlander asked for specific dates from Cortez, who was only able to narrow the robberies to a range of a few years. Friedlander also noted inconsistencies in Cortez's statements as to when he first joined the Imperial Gangsters and the date of the first robbery with Reyes.
Friedlander then questioned Cortez's memory when he could recall the dates of his children's birthdays.
Friedlander also asked why Cortez decided to enter into the plea agreement.
Cortez said he accepted the deal to avoid a life sentence.
During the day's proceedings, prosecutors introduced witnesses to establish the actions of other alleged Imperial Gangsters facing indictment. Also introduced was evidence seized from Reyes' apartment, including one of two guns, an electric scale, and photographs of a younger Reyes.
Cross examination revealed that no investigators witnessed Reyes in possession of the guns, and the guns were not registered under his name.
U.S. Attorney David Nozick said Reyes had a previous felony, so he was not legally allowed to register a gun in his name.
Reyes' trial will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday.