40 charged as Latin Kings in drug-trafficking case, officials say

By Jeff Coen | Chicago Tribune reporter

September 25, 2008

More than three dozen people with ties to the powerful Latin Kings street gang were charged Wednesday in a drug conspiracy case for alleged narcotics trafficking in the agents and Chicago police were a part of teams involved in a sweep early Wednesday in which a number of reputed leaders of the organization were taken into custody. Among those charged were a “supreme regional officer,” a regional enforcer and 18 “Incas” in the gang that is accused of selling drugs and weapons.

Federal officials said 40 people were charged in a case that was meant to be a major blow against the gang’s leadership. The four-year investigation used an undercover informant who wore a wire against fellow gang members even as he was responsible for security at major meetings.

Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis said there have been 29 slayings—of which eight were juveniles—this year in the Ogden District, the area of the sweep.

Among those charged was Vicente Garcia, 30, who is alleged to have started in the gang’s section and now is accused of being a regional leader who replaced Fernando “Ace” King in the gang’s structure. King, the reputed Supreme Inca of the gang, was found guilty in July in a drug conspiracy.

Jose Guzman, an alleged regional enforcer, also was charged, along with Victor Aviles, another alleged regional leader.

The case was centered on activity in the Little Village neighborhood, believed to be one of seven local regions for the gang and considered to be its headquarters. The informant recorded a number of meetings and gang transactions, according to the complaint filed in the case.

Among the discussions allegedly captured were talks about Incas being ordered to sell a quarter-ounce of cocaine twice a month in order to generate revenue for gang leaders. The plan, alleged to have been organized by Garcia, was intended to raise more than $9,000 a month for everything from guns to attorney fees and gang funerals.

Authorities have said only Augustin Zambrano, the gang’s alleged “Corona,” was above Fernando King in the hierarchy. Zambrano was not charged Wednesday.

There are 10 fugitives among those charged, including Garcia and Aviles, officials said.

At an afternoon news conference with leaders of U.S. attorney’s office, the FBI, Chicago police and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, Rob Grant, head of the FBI in Chicago, said those charged also included eight “casiques,” or No. 2 leaders in Latin King sections. “We essentially eliminated their entire command and control structure,” Grant said.

Grant said several weapons were seized Wednesday, including assault rifles, when some 400 law enforcement personnel from several area agencies moved into Little Village.

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said the goal of the operation was to prevent violence, and defended his office from criticism that it is being too heavy-handed against the largely Hispanic neighborhood.

Wednesday’s announcement came on the heels of a case last week that saw federal agents break down a ring selling fake documents in the area. Fitzgerald said the only reason federal authorities targeted Little Village Wednesday was because it is where the gang operated.

“If we don’t go after them, we shouldn’t be in business,” he said.

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