SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE / AP - Dozens of members of the Latin Kings street gang in the Chicago area and northern Indiana have been arrested on charges of a federal racketeering conspiracy that included arson, beatings, extortion, witness tampering and the attempted murder of a police officer, according to indictments unsealed Tuesday.
Those indicted included leaders, treasurers and enforcers of lucrative Latin Kings chapters. Law enforcement officials told reporters at a news conference in Chicago that the arrests are a blow to the "Almighty Latin King Nation," whose membership extends nationwide.
Two indictments out of Chicago led to charges against 36 purported gang members and associates, though two defendants didn't face the conspiracy count. A related indictment out of Hammond, Indiana, led to charges against an additional 26 people. Only a few of the named defendants eluded arrest, officials said.
Chicago-based U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said the Latin Kings have helped fuel persistent violence in Chicago, noting how the crime syndicate's top brass issued standing orders to kill rivals on sight.
"(These) cases are about one thing: violence ... the type of violence that plagues our communities," he said.
Asked if such legal action has a perceptible impact on rates of violence in Chicago, Fardon said, "It's not specifically measurable. ... But it does matter." He said poverty and other societal ills were the more fundamental causes of violence.
The Indiana indictment cites how one suspect opened fire on a bar in Hammond, killing one man, after the Latin Kings learned the facility was serving members of a rival gang, David Capp, the U.S. attorney in Hammond, said at the same Tuesday news conference.
"This is about violence ... that this organization brings to the streets of Chicago and northern Indiana on a daily basis," he said.
Many Indiana residents mistakenly believe the Latin Kings are primarily a Chicago problem, he added.
"It's a regional problem," he said. "We've got defendants in our biggest (Indiana) cities to our smallest farming communities."
One of the Chicago indictments mentions one gang member's bid to kill a suburban Melrose Park police officer working with the FBI. Edgar Velarde-Saldana, 33, of Maywood, a so-called “soldier” in the younger circle of M-Town, is charged with trying to kill a Melrose Park police officer on July 6, 2014. The officer was assisting the FBI.
Two indictments focus on the Latin Kings’ dealings on the Southeast Side and in the western suburbs of Maywood and Melrose Park, known as “M-Town.” Several of those charged have already been arrested and began making initial appearances in federal court this week.
One indictment charges three of the Latin Kings’ alleged “Regional Enforcers” on the Southeast Side: Raul Cavillo, 33; Joel Nunez, 39; and Carlos Padilla Jr., 35, all of Chicago. Another hits the so-called “M-Town” area , including high-ranking “Incas” identified as Piere Paolo Gennell, 30, of Melrose Park; Jose F. Hernandez, 45, of Maywood, and David Perez, 26, of Melrose Park.
A federal racketeering conspiracy charge, which authorities use to target groups that display recurring patterns of criminality, normally carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence. But a life sentence can be imposed if it is proven that murder or other violent crimes underpin the conspiracy.