While the gangs that make up the Almighty Latin King Nation are a product of Southside Chicago streets, they're also one of the dominant gangs in New York City. Cliques or sets have established themselves in many other areas along the East Coast. The Latin Kings have a wide-ranging presence that overshadows the Motherland — the name the Latin Kings use to refer to Chicago.
The two major factions include the Kings Motherland Chapter whose members follow the Chicago ideology and the Bloodline Chapter, which is based in NYC and loyal to the founder of the N.Y. Latin Kings, Luis "King Blood" Felipe.
There now seems to be a power struggle for the kingdom. Many old-timers are leaving prison after long sentences for violent crimes, and a charismatic leader was recently released after a decade behind bars. In the 2011 Maryland RICO case, the Latin King Ambassador King Skibee (a.k.a. "the Royal Lion") took a lengthy plea behind bars to avoid a trial and a probable life sentence in federal prison.
In March, I was asked to testify as an expert witness in a RICO trial against a Latin King. He was the sole holdout of a 19-defendant indictment on charges ranging from drug dealing to murder. The other 18 Latin Kings took their pleas and ran to prison.
After reviewing much of the gang evidence during the trial, I realized not much has changed with the Latin Kings. Wherever they are, they are committing crimes, killing people and spreading chaos in the communities in which they live. They also continue to overwhelm themselves in baloney rhetoric written down in verbose manifestos that's filled with prose leaving much to the reader's interpretation. Their coded words are cryptography they use to maintain strict control of a well-structured criminal organization.
The defendant in the case, as I learned after the trial was over, was accused of a murder. To an untrained person, he didn't fit the description of a Latin King. He wasn't Latino and he didn't have the Latin American or Caribbean ancestry usually required for membership. Like so many other Latin Kings I've encountered through the years, he fit the bill of a criminal willing to kill.
Many Latin Kings in the gang are not Latino. The defense attorney had tried to establish that his client couldn't be a Latin King because he was African American and didn't have Latino blood running through his veins. As I explained, the Latin Kings believe there is power in numbers and that's what they're all about.
In February, police and FBI agents in Newburgh, N.Y. — a once picturesque town on the Hudson River about an hour north of New York City — arrested 31 members of the Latin Kings on RICO charges. While discussing the arrests at a press conference, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, said, "Because gang violence and drug dealing on the streets of Newburgh remain intolerable, we mean to and we must put an end to the scourge that calls itself the Latin Kings."
One murder charged in the RICO case was the killing of Jeffrey Zachary, a 15-year-old innocent bystander. High-ranking members in the Latin King's organization accidentally shot and killed the boy when they went after a rival.
The leader of the Latin Kings in Plainfield N.J., was sentenced to 50 years in prison in January, after he was found guilty of the attempted murder of a local man outside a nightclub in 2008. He and another Latin King stabbed their victim numerous times until they thought he was dead, and left him on the street to die. Had it not been for a passing Good Samaritan, the victim would have certainly died that night at the hands of these violent gangsters. The gang is one of the largest in the state.
This will be the year to closely watch regional cliques of the Latin Kings across the Almighty Nation.
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