U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Northern District of Illinois
Northern District of Illinois
For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney
Contact: Randall Samborn
Latin Kings’ Leader, Augustin Zambrano, and Three Other High–Ranking Gang Members Convicted of RICO Conspiracy and Related Crimes in Federal Trial in Chicago
CHICAGO – A federal jury late yesterday convicted the highest-ranking nationwide leader and three other high-ranking leaders of the Latin Kings street gang of racketeering conspiracy (RICO) and all other charges against them involving narcotics trafficking and related violence that plagued numerous neighborhoods on the north, south and west sides of Chicago, announced U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
According to the evidence in the six-week federal trial, from its origin and base in the west side Little Village community, the Latin Kings spread throughout Chicago and Illinois and established branches in other states, where local leaders acted with some autonomy, but adhered to the rules and hierarchy of the Chicago gang. Among the defendants convicted was Augustin Zambrano, 51, identified at trial as the
Corona, making him the highest-ranking leader nationwide of the Almighty Latin King Nation, and responsible for overseeing the illegal activities of all factions of the powerful street gang, which evidence showed has approximately 10,000 members in Illinois alone.
Zambrano, aka Big Tino, Tino, Old Man and Viejo, and three co-defendants were found guilty of running a criminal enterprise to enrich themselves and others through drug-trafficking, and preserving and protecting their power, territory and revenue through acts of murder, attempted murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, extortion and other acts of violence.
Zambrano is the highest-ranking leader of the Latin Kings to be convicted since Gustavo Colon, aka Gino, who also holds the title of
Corona and is serving a life sentence that was imposed in 2000 for running a continuing criminal enterprise.
All four trial defendants remain in federal custody and face potentially lengthy prison terms without parole. U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle scheduled sentencing for Zambrano on Aug. 23, 2011, and set sentencing for the other three defendants Aug. 24-26, 2011.
Also convicted of RICO conspiracy and other crimes were: Vicente Garcia, 33, identified at trial as the
Supreme Regional Inca, who was in charge of all Latin Kings in Illinois; Jose Guzman, 34, identified at trial as a former
Nation Enforcer in the 26th Street or Little Village faction; and Alphonso Chavez, 26, identified at trial as the
Inca, or leader of the gang’s 31st and Drake faction.
This verdict inflicts a serious blow to the to leaders of the Latin Kings, said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
It demonstrates that the combined and coordinated efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement can assemble cases looking at disparate crimes – such as selling false identification documents in Little Village – and tie them all the way back to the gang leaders responsible for a broad array of criminal conduct.
Evidence at trial included audio and video recordings of three beatings inflicted upon gang members for violating the rules and testimony documenting 20 shootings in the Little Village area, including at least one in which the victim died. Zambrano and Garcia were both convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon.
The four trial defendants were among a total of 31 co-defendants who were indicted in September 2008 or charged in a superseding indictment in October 2009. Of those 31 defendants, 24 pleaded guilty, four were convicted at trial and three remain fugitives. Three of the defendants who pleaded guilty testified as government witnesses at the trial.
The RICO conspiracy count included evidence that Zambrano and several co-defendants conspired to demand and receive payment from an organization illegally selling fraudulent immigration documents in Little Village by threatening, and actually engaging in, the use of force and violence against members of that organization unless the defendants received regular cash payments. Trial evidence proved federal charges that Latin Kings leaders extorted
street tax from non-gang members, referred to as
miqueros, who sold false identification documents.
As part of the RICO conspiracy, evidence also showed that defendants kept victims in fear of the gang and its leaders by enforcing what it referred to as an
SOS – shoot on sight or smash on sight – order against Latin King members who cooperated with law enforcement in order to enforce the gang’s grip on the community and control over its members and associates.
U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald announced the verdict with Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI, and Andrew L. Traver, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The Chicago Police Department, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Homeland Security Investigations in Chicago and the Cook County Sheriff’s Police also had significant roles in the investigation, which was conducted through the federal High Intensity Drug-Trafficking Area Task Force and under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
The trial and earlier guilty pleas showed that many of the defendants were leaders of the 24 sections that comprised the 26th Street Region in Little Village, who conspired in late 2007 to sell powder cocaine twice a month to fund the
Nation Box, a kitty that the regional hierarchy used to purchase weapons and ammunition, and pay for funeral and attorney fees for fellow gang members.
The RICO conspiracy count encompassed a pattern of illegal activity since 2000, including drug trafficking, extortion, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, murder, attempted murder and solicitation to commit murder and intimidation. Evidence of the RICO conspiracy also included proof that the defendants and their associates:
- Conducted the gang’s affairs through a series of laws and policies, some of which were codified in a
constitution,as well as a
26th Street rules.The laws included a three-page list of 25 rules establishing procedures for homicides,
securityand the sale of counterfeit identification documents;
- Attended regular meetings, known as
demos– or, when held by Nation officers,
Nation demos– at which they discussed, planned and otherwise engaged in criminal activity, including violent crimes, narcotics distribution and obstruction of justice;
- Initiated members by causing them to endure physical assaults conducted by other members at various gang-related gatherings; and
- Managed the procurement, transfer, use, concealment and disposal of firearms and dangerous weapons to protect gang-related territory, personnel and operations, and to deter, eliminate and retaliate against competitors and other rival gangs and individuals.
The convictions resulted from sustained, coordinated investigations by multiple federal law enforcement agencies, working together with the Chicago Police Department and other state and local partners to dismantle the hierarchy of the Latin Kings and other highly-organized, often violent, drug-trafficking Chicago street gangs. In late 2006, ATF agents led an investigation that resulted in federal drug trafficking and firearms charges against 38 Latin Kings members and associates. In 2008, the FBI led an investigation that resulted in state and federal charges against 40 Latin Kings members and associates, including a dozen of the Zambrano co-defendants. In total, more than 80 Latin Kings members and associates have faced state or federal charges since 2006 and, of those, approximately 65 have been convicted federally, with only a few fugitives still facing federal charges.
The RICO conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and assault with a dangerous weapon counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Garcia was convicted of using a firearm during a violent crime, which carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison to a maximum of life. The various narcotics counts carry sentences ranging from a mandatory minimum five years to a maximum of life and a fine up to $4 million. The court must impose a reasonable sentence under the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew Porter, Nancy DePodesta and Tinos Diamantatos.