Twelve leaders and members of the Latin Kings were charged in U.S. District Court in Springfield Monday with drug distribution and firearms offenses.
“The defendants are alleged leaders and members of the Latin Kings, a criminal organization whose tactics include intimidation, violence and even murder,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “The charges strike at the core of this organization and seek to bring peace to the neighborhoods they have damaged through drug dealing and violence.”
Eric Lopez, 33, of Chicopee, and Francisco Figueroa, 30, of Holyoke, were charged with being felons in possession of firearms; Joseph Ortiz, 22, Jose Cartagena, 37, and Juan Velazquez, 29, of Springfield; Xavier Nazario, 24, Miguel Morales, 23, and Derek Richard, 31, of Holyoke; and Francisco Bermudez, 26, and Norman Andino, 35, of Chicopee, were all charged with distribution of heroin; and Bienvenido Nuñez, 37, of Springfield, and Andrew Cruz, 24, of Springfield, were charged with distribution of cocaine.
According to court documents, the investigation was initiated in October 2014 in an effort to disrupt and dismantle the Latin Kings’ criminal activity in the Springfield and Holyoke areas. The investigation revealed that the twelve defendants are allegedly members of the Latin Kings, a nation-wide gang organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. It is also alleged that Nuñez is the “enforzador” or enforcer, in charge of security, and Cartagena is the “inca,” or chief, of the Springfield Chapter of the Latin Kings.
The Latin Kings consider fellow gang members to be brothers and sisters, and an act against the interest of one member is an act against the interest of all members. Members and associates of the Latin Kings regularly utilize violence, including homicide and armed assault, in support of drug trafficking activities.
According to court documents, members and associates of the Latin Kings are engaged in the distribution of narcotics, particularly heroin. Furthermore, disputes with rival gangs over criminal activity and drug turf are on the rise and have resulted in serious crimes of violence, including armed assaults with firearms and murder.
“Today’s arrests have significantly disrupted one of the most powerful and brutal gangs in western Massachusetts,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division. “Not only did the FBI’s Western Massachusetts Gang Task Force seize numerous narcotics and firearms, but we prevented specific acts of violence from taking place. The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to take back our communities from these violent offenders and make our streets safer.”
“So much of the street violence we deal with in this state, and in this country, is the result of the confluence of guns and drugs,” said Colonel Richard D. McKeon, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. “The inclination of gang members to use firearms to protect their drug profits and settle scores requires constant vigilance and aggressive interdiction, such as this investigation, to dismantle these organizations.”
The charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm provides a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The charges of distribution of heroin and cocaine each provide a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of $1 million on each count.
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