THE LOOP — Local and federal authorities on Tuesday revealed a sweeping, multiyear investigation into Chicago's violent Latin Kings street gang, charging nearly three dozen alleged members in a racketeering conspiracy.
Alleged high-level Latin Kings were named by authorities, including a slate of "regional enforcers," crew-running "Incas" and street-level soldiers.
U.S. Attorney Zach Fardon and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson detailed the gang takedown at a news conference at the Dirksen Federal Building in The Loop, describing a reign of terror in Chicago's neighborhoods.
"We're not done. The investigations are ongoing. As long as the Latin Kings keep doing what they're doing, we're going to keep coming," Fardon said.
"We're not done." pic.twitter.com/HimfC0dy8m— Kelly Bauer (@BauerJournalism) July 26, 2016
Indictments against 36 people were unsealed Tuesday, including those of 34 people charged with racketeering conspiracy, the same tactic the feds have used for years to target mobsters, including the Chicago Outfit and other criminal organizations.
The 34 are considering ranking members of the gang, including "Incas," Latin King terminology for the highest ranking member of a certain area of the city and suburbs, and their deputies, referred to as "caciques."
There were also alleged "regional enforcers" charged, including Raul Vacillo, 33, of Chicago. Also, low-level "soldiers" were hauled in, prosecutors said.
The charges include attempted murder of rival gang members and of a Melrose Park police officer.
"They are alleged to have used gang signs and colors and graffiti to mark their territory and use violence to protect that territory," Fardon said. "The Latin Kings gang members are also alleged to have used guns and violence shootings and even murder to protect that territory."
Latin Kings members paid "dues" that were then used to buy guns, bail members out of jail and pay for attorneys, according to the indictments. New members would be beaten, Fardon said, as would gang members who violated rules or questioned gang leaders.
Court papers would describe gatherings referred to as "church" where they planned murders and other crimes.
Latin Kings issued orders to "kill on sight," "shoot on sight" and "blast on sight" rivals and Latin Kings members who were "no longer in good standing," according to the indictments. Fardon said gang members used coded language like "burns" and "missions" to describe things like shootings and beatings.
To control turf, some gang members were put on "security" detail, cometimes called "posting up." Such "security" flashed gang signs and yelled gang slogans "to demonstrate their control of the neighborhood," according to court documents. They were required to "shoot on sight" all rival gang members.
Some money was earned by enforcing a "street tax" on drug dealers as well as local legitimate businesses. Refusal to pay such taxes resulted in violence, the prosecutors said.
Gang members paid weekly dues to the leaders to build a stash of cash referred to as a "box." The "box" account was used to bail gang members out of jail, pay lawyers, send cash to members in prison and to buy guns and automobiles, the later of which were sometimes referred to as "rammers" to be used in crimes.
Police took at least 40 guns — including AR-15s — off the streets during the investigation, Fardon said.
The indictments and loss of guns will make an impact on the Latin Kings, Fardon said, but they're not a long-term solution: Officials will have to address issues like poverty to make lasting changes. Johnson called for a "legislative solution" that would crack down on repeat offenders.
The investigation — which Chicago Police joined in 2013 — included officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the FBI; the Chicago Police Department and Indiana police departments.
Gov. Bruce Rauner issued a statement praising the bust: “I applaud U.S. Attorney Fardon for his work to bring charges against 34 alleged gang members in Chicago today. Through diligent, cooperative efforts like this, law enforcement at the city, state, and federal levels can make great strides in reducing the crime that is devastating our neighborhoods. We must work together to ensure that all residents feel safe and have the opportunity to thrive.”
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