A high-ranking leader of the Latin Kings street gang was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison after being convicted of racketeering conspiracy and related charges involving narcotics trafficking and violence that plagued the Little Village neighborhood on the city’s west side. The defendant, JUAN AMAYA, 38, was convicted by a jury in March of this year after a trial in U.S. District Court.
In 2008, Amaya was the leader, or “Regional Inca,” of the Almighty Latin King Nation’s 26th Street Region, encompassing Little Village, the gang’s most important stronghold. Amaya was “in charge of over 1,000 soldiers ― many of whom were simply boys sent off to kill or be killed” under rules and policies he oversaw, the government argued in seeking a sentence of 40 years’ imprisonment.
Amaya was held responsible for participating in a conspiracy to commit murder, according to findings by U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, who imposed the sentence in Federal Court. Amaya must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence.
Last week, Nedal Issa, who was the Inca of the Latin Kings’ Cicero Section of the 26th Street Region and who pleaded guilty, cooperated, and testified as a government witness, was sentenced to nearly 17 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle. Amaya’s sentencing marks the last significant event in cases since 2008 that resulted in federal convictions of, and lengthy sentences for, Augustin Zambrano, the Latin Kings’ leader or “Corona;” Vicente Garcia, the gang’s “Supreme Regional Inca;” Fernando King, who preceded Garcia as second-incommand; and more than two dozen other top-ranking leaders.
“These sentences hold these defendants accountable for the barbaric enterprise known as the Latin Kings and for their roles in murder, attempted murder, shootings, beatings, drug trafficking, and other crimes,” said Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “I want to thank our local, state and federal law enforcement partners for their brave and outstanding work resulting in a major impact on this gang enterprise,” Mr. Fardon added.
The evidence at Amaya’s trial showed that by 2008, just a couple of years after he was released on parole from a 24-year sentence for a 1992 murder conviction, Amaya was promoted to Regional Inca of the Little Village Region, reporting only to Garcia and Zambrano and effectively running the gang at their behest. During his tenure, Amaya discussed 25 shootings committed by his underlings while expressing pride at the consistency of violence. All told, hundreds of shootings resulting from Latin Kings conduct occurred in Little Village during the period of Amaya’s prominence, according to the government.
Amaya was indicted separately in 2012 following the 2008 and 2009 indictments of more than 30 top leaders of the Latin Kings. All have been convicted and sentenced except for a few defendants who remain fugitives. From its origin and base in the west side Little Village neighborhood, 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, according to trial evidence and court records.
The sentence was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Carl Vasilko, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Chicago Police Department, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) 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 (HIDTA) Task Force and under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).
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 Zambrano and numerous co-defendants. In total, nearly 100 Latin Kings members and associates have faced state or federal charges since 2006. The convictions resulted from a sustained, coordinated effort by 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 Chicago street gangs.
Zambrano was the highest-ranking Latin King to be convicted and sentenced since Gustavo “Gino” Colon, who also holds the title of “Corona,” was sentenced to life in prison in 2000.
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