Latin Kings leaders arrested
The police say 26 are charged after an 11-month investigation dubbed "Operation Royal Flush."
01:00 AM EST on Thursday, November 11, 2004
BY AMANDA MILKOVITS
Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE -- Police say the hierarchy of the Latin Kings in Providence and Woonsocket has been toppled in what they are calling the biggest drug-gang bust in Providence's history.
A broad, 11-month, multi-agency investigation called "Operation Royal Flush" charged 26 people believed to be involved in a drug-trafficking network and seized $200,000 in assets. Nine people are suspected high-ranking members of the Latin Kings, including the so-called king and queen of Providence and the king of Woonsocket. The others are mainly acquaintances from city neighborhoods who allegedly served as cocaine and marijuana suppliers and associates with the Latin Kings.
Their ranks include convicted criminals who've either done steady prison time or were facing it, notorious players in the city, and two "supreme crowns," one of whom is a professional boxer arrested days before a big fight at Foxwoods Resort Casino.
"Our message to the Latin Kings gang," said U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente, as he stood with other federal, state, and local law enforcement officers in announcing the sting yesterday. "This community is not going to allow you to take root here."
It has been nearly a decade since the last major bust of the Latin Kings organization in Providence. Operation Checkmate sent 13 gang members to jail for a multitude of crimes, including murder, under the first application of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to prosecute gang members.
After that, the police say, the Latin Kings went underground. They stopped wearing their black-and-gold colors and their beads, and they stopped using certain gang hand signals, wary of being identified, said the Providence detectives who investigated the recent case.
About three years ago, the gang began to resurface -- with a new realm in power, the police say. Shootings and murders increased, as did drug trafficking, said Lt. Thomas Verdi, head of the Providence police narcotics, firearms and organized crime unit.
There is no underestimating the strength of the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation, say law enforcement and gang experts. The gang began in Chicago in the 1940s and spread steadily across the country with an earned reputation for organized crime and chilling violence.
"Gangs today are just one word: business," said Ed Cohn, executive director of the National Major Gang Task Force, based in Indiana. "They're not in it for the socialization anymore. They're in it to make money."
They are good at recruiting members and maintaining their loyalty. They follow a manifesto that dictates the chain of command, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The local Latin King leaders consist of the Supreme Crown Inca (the commander) and an Executive Crown of officers that includes a treasurer, secretary, Carsique or second in command, and a minister of defense, who metes out punishment, organizes war and maintains the arsenal.
There are about 100 Latin King members believed to be in Rhode Island, Verdi said.
This raid stemmed from the arrest of the former Supreme Crown in Providence, Eric "E" Thomas, 30, on drug charges. Thomas was arrested in December 2003 while on probation for racketeering and attempted murder charges.
A new Supreme Crown, Joel Francisco, known as "Joe Crack," 31, rose up, the police said. His queen was girlfriend Julissa Jaquez, 23, who the police say used her residence at 24 Croyland Rd. as a stash house. William Cifredo, 30, of 72 Aurault St., and Joel Trinidad, 22, of 93 Lexington Ave., moved up as second in command, the police said. Over in Woonsocket, pro boxer Reynaldo Rodriguez, 26, of 75 Village Rd., was "King Ray" as the Supreme Crown in Woonsocket.
Other alleged Latin King members arrested include: Miguel "Speedy" Jusino, 20, of 47 Wesleyan Ave., Josue Francisco, 23, of Providence, David Francisco, 25, of Providence, and Albert Martinez, 25, of Providence.
The Providence police investigation expanded and brought in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the attorney general's office and the U.S. Attorney's office, in a wide-ranging effort to eliminate the Latin Kings.
Through their cooperative work and an investigation involving wiretapping, the authorities uncovered a lucrative crack cocaine and marijuana trafficking operation.
They made their first arrests on Oct. 13-14, and followed up on Oct. 24. One man they arrested was Rodriguez, the boxer. In a picture on the New England Boxing Web site, Rodriguez poses barechested with his Latin Kings tattoos clearly visible. LK is on the right side of his neck and Amore De Rey (Love for the King), with its accompanying crown, is tattooed on his abdomen.
While being arrested, Rodriguez allegedly told the detectives he wanted to be out in time for his bout at Foxwoods on Oct. 29. He wasn't, Verdi said.
The others have been arrested over the last several weeks, he said. They've seized $100,000 cash and about $100,000 in vehicles, along with thousands of dollars in crack cocaine and marijuana.
Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman credited Verdi and his detectives, Robert Enright and Joseph Colanduono, and East Providence Detective Carl Jacobson for their lead in the investigation.
Nine were indicted by a federal grand jury on Nov. 3:
Joel Francisco, of 62-64 Dexter St., Providence, who faces mandatory life in prison, is indicted for possession with intent to distribute 50 or more grams of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute 500 or more grams of cocaine, and three counts of conspiracy.
Joel Trinidad is charged with possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and conspiracy.
Reynaldo Rodriguez is charged with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.
Miguel Jusino is charged with possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and conspiracy.
Cifredo is charged with two counts of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.
Alleged associate Elliot Cruz Rivera, 33, of 752 Atwells Ave., was charged with consipiracy.
Alleged supplier Anthony Goris, 26, of 86 Florence St., conspiracy to distribute 42 pounds of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and possessing a firearm in connection with drug trafficking.
Alleged supplier David Batista, 27, of 48 McClellan St., indicted for conspiracy to distribute 30 pounds of marijuana, and as a felon in possession of a firearm.
Alleged supplier Xiomara Mercedes, 30, of Lawrence, Mass., was charged with conspiracy to deliver 19 pounds of marijuana.
The federal government has allegations against two alleged suppliers: Francisco "Ponch" Torres, 37, of 77 Newark St., conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and Eric Rhoden, 33, of 943 Dyer Ave., conspiracy to possess a controlled substance.
Alleged Latin King queen Julissa Jaquez faces state charges for possession with intent to deliver cocaine and soliciting another to commit a crime.
Nine others face state charges for soliciting another to commit a crime: alleged associates Ramaar Logan, 20, of Providence; Desmond Pereira, 20, of Providence; Steven DePina, 25, of Providence; Susan Tran, 24, of Providence; Jonathan Jaquez, 22, of Providence; Harold Reed, 26, of Providence; and alleged Latin King members Josue Francisco, 23, David Francisco, 25, and Albert Martinez, 25.
Warrants have been issued for four people for federal charges and one person on state charges.