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Twelve Members of Violent Latin Kings Drug Organization Charged with Murder in Aid of Racketeering

BETHLEHEM, PA—A superseding indictment was unsealed today charging 12 alleged members of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN or “Latin Kings”) Bethlehem Sun Tribe with participating in a racketeering conspiracy that includes murder in aid of racketeering and other crimes, announced U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane David Memeger. According to the superseding indictment, the Bethlehem Sun Tribe used violence and intimidation as a means to maintain its territory, power, and profits. Its own members were subjected to murder, kidnapping, and assault as punishment for violating any of the tribe’s rules. Indictments were also filed against 23 gang members and associates charging drug and firearms offenses.

The superseding indictment alleges that on Jan. 10, 2004, at Saucon Park in Bethlehem, Pa., Neftali Colon and Oscar Hernandez shot and killed Eugene Martinez, an individual who had assaulted and “disrespected” Colon and another member of the Bethlehem Sun Tribe.

“The type of brutality and lawlessness alleged in this indictment is exactly what the 222 Anti-Gang Initiative aims to eradicate,” said U.S. Attorney Memeger. “We will use every tool available to fight organizations that bring their criminal enterprises to the communities we serve.”

The 12 defendants charged in the RICO conspiracy superseding indictment are: Luis Colon, aka “King Respect;” Neftali Colon, aka “King Nefti;” Oscar Hernandez, aka “King Flip;” Pedro Velasquez, aka “King P-Solo;” Michael Pagan, aka “King Vision;” Abran Figueroa, aka “King Ace;” Jesse Zayas, aka “King Pride;” Waldemar Torres, aka “King Vail;” Steve Calderon, aka “King Silence;” Cesar Velez, aka “King C’s;” Hector Luis Rivera, aka “King Tito;” and Carlos R. Martinez, aka “King Knowledge.” The charges include conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise; murder in aid of racketeering activity; conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering activity; conspiracy to commit kidnapping and assault in aid of racketeering activity; kidnapping and assault in aid of racketeering activity; using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence; distribution of controlled substances; convicted felons in possession of firearms; sales of firearms to known felons; and criminal forfeiture of 14 firearms and ammunition.

Some of the incidents alleged in the superseding indictment include:

* On March 17, 2004, Luis Colon, Neftali Colon, Hernandez, Velasquez, Rivera and Martinez traveled to Vineland, N.J., upon orders of the Philadelphia chapter of the Latin Kings, armed with firearms, body armor and ammunition, to serve as “soldiers” to assist in the murder of members of the New Jersey Latin Kings. The plan was unsuccessful.

* On Jan. 23, 2008, Figueroa, Zayas and Torres conspired and agreed to kidnap and assault an individual they believed had cooperated with law enforcement. The next day they kidnapped the individual and assaulted him.

* On Jan. 27, 2008, Luis Colon, Pagan, Figueroa, Zayas and Torres discussed the possible murder of someone they believed had cooperated with law enforcement in the Saucon Park murder investigation. On Jan. 28, 2008, defendant Zayas arranged to obtain a firearm to use in the planned murder.

* In October 2008, Velasquez, Pagan, Torres and Calderon conspired and agreed to murder an individual whom they believed to be cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation of the Saucon Park murder. This plan was unsuccessful.

* Between Nov. 22, 2007, and Feb. 2, 2010, Colon, Velasquez, Velez and Calderon are also alleged to have distributed crack cocaine and methamphetamine in Bethlehem.

* Between Dec. 3, 2007, and Feb. 2, 2010, Velez and Figueroa allegedly sold numerous firearms to members of the Latin Kings Bethlehem Sun Tribe.

“This ongoing gang investigation, and the indictments and arrests announced today, highlight the importance of our vigilance against the continuing wave of criminal thugs who seek to profit through crime and violence,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk.

If convicted of all charges, each of the 12 defendants faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Joining in today’s announcement were FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Janice Fedarcyk of the Philadelphia Field Office; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Mark Potter; Special Agent-in-Charge Joseph Clarke with the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General; Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli; Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin; and Bethlehem Police Commissioner Stuart Bedics.

Additional Drug and Gun Indictments

Along with the main indictment, 18 separate indictments were filed charging 23 people, who were members or associates of the Bethlehem Sun Tribe. The charges allege that the defendants sold guns, drugs or both, in Bethlehem, between November 2007 and June 2008. The gun charges include: possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; selling firearms to known felons; possession of firearms with obliterated serial numbers; possession of a machine gun; and possession of an unregistered short-barreled rifle. The drug charges include: conspiracy to distribute; distribution of 50 grams or more of cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine; distribution of heroin; and distribution of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a public housing facility.

If convicted of all charges each defendant faces up to a maximum sentence of life in prison or 10 years for certain firearms violations and up to life in prison for certain narcotics convictions.

This case is part of the “222 Corridor Anti-Gang Initiative,” a federally-funded program designed to defeat some of the most violent and pervasive gangs in the country. The “222 Corridor” includes the Pennsylvania cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Reading, Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg. This initiative combines federal, state, and local law enforcement resources to attack gang crime and violence throughout the corridor.

The case was investigated by the FBI, the ATF, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General, and the Bethlehem Police Department. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John M. Gallagher and Seth Weber.

An indictment or information is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

(Source: FBI)