BOSTON (WPRI) — Before the sun even came up Thursday, law enforcement officials in several Massachusetts cities and towns including New Bedford were busy arresting dozens of suspects charged in connection with a four-year investigation into the Latin Kings street gang.
During a Thursday morning news conference, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said a total of 64 people are charged in the case as part of the massive investigation specifically intended to dismantle the gang’s East Coast leadership.
He said during Thursday morning’s operation, more than 500 law enforcement officers made 47 arrests in Boston, Lawrence, Lowell, Springfield, Fitchburg, Chelsea, New Bedford, and Worcester as well as in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. Lelling said eight fugitives are still on the loose and nine of the suspects – including Federal Hill stabbing suspect Joel Francisco – are already in the corrections system on other charges.
“During the four-year investigation, law enforcement developed evidence that the Latin Kings trafficked drugs, conspired to murder more than 10 victims, and committed violent crimes including numerous incidents of robbery, shootings, stabbings, and witness intimidation,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
The suspected East Coast leader of the Latin Kings, Michael Cecchetelli, aka “King Merlin,” of Springfield, is among those charged. Cecchetelli has the title of Supreme East Coast Regional Overseer, Lelling said, and is the main conduit between Latin King East Coast members and the national leadership.
“Under Cecchetelli’s leadership, the influence of the Latin Kings has grown throughout Massachusetts, leading to an increase in shootings and violence in our cities and towns,” Lelling said.
Two Rhode Island men were arrested as part of this operation, including Joel Francisco.
Francisco, also known as “King Casper,” is already facing a murder count for the October stabbing of a man inside a hookah lounge in Providence.
In documents unsealed Thursday, prosecutors say Cecchetelli tried to help Francisco escape to Mexico after the murder.
Francisco was arrested in Texas and is in custody on the murder charge and as a probation violator.
Lelling said 31 search warrants at 24 locations were also executed in various locations throughout Massachusetts but focused mostly on locations in New Bedford.
Investigators, Lelling said, have seized dozens of firearms, six cars, six motorcycles, three jet skis, and an ATV. In addition, they recovered various drugs and about $38,000 in cash.
“Violence and a known pattern of witness intimidation have emboldened the Latin Kings across Massachusetts, but especially in New Bedford,” Lelling added. “Gang-related violence in New Bedford spiked during the summer and fall of 2019 with Latin King members brazenly issuing threats to rival gangs over social media.”
The Latin Kings is considered the oldest and largest predominantly Latino gangs in the country.
During the investigation, federal agents were able to infiltrate the top levels of the gang, witnessing planning sessions and gang initiations, according to Lelling.
He said during the course of the investigation, authorities were able to intervene and prevent eight murders from happening.
Suspects Charged in the Case include:
|1||Michael Cecchetelli, King Merlin||East Coast Team,East Coast Overseer|
|2||Esther Ortiz, Queen IndiaMeriden, CT||East Coast Team,East Coast Crown Council Chairwoman|
|3||Hector Manuel Vega, King DemonBritian, CT||East Coast Team,Crown Council Member, CT|
|4||Jorge Rodriguez, King G||State Team, CaciqueEnforcer (Former)|
|5||Michael Marrero, King Clumsy||State Team, EnforcerRegional Officer (Former)|
|6||Francisco Lopez, King CiscoChelsea, Mass.||State Team, Treasurer/Secretary|
|7||Gregory Peguero-Colon, King TreceSpringfield, Mass.||State Team,Crown Council Chairman|
|8||Juan Liberato, King ProdigyHaverhill, Mass.||State Team, Inca (Former)|
|9||Angel Roldan, King Big-A and NeltyLowell, Mass.||State Team, Cacique (Former)Enforcer (Former)|
|10||Frutuoso Barros, King Fruity||DOC, Supreme Regional Officer|
|11||Sandra Correa, Queen DreamPeabody, Mass.||DOC, Secretary (Former)|
|12||Shaun Harrison Rev||DOC, Member|
|13||Vincent Dzierwinski, King Vice||DOC, Member|
|14||Wilson Peguero, King DubbDorchester, Mass.||D5K, Inca|
|15||Alexis Peguero, King Lexi/LooneyDorchester, Mass.||D5K, Cacique|
|16||Matthew Palacios, King Nene||D5K, Enforcer|
|17||Steven Familia-Valdez, King HazeMattapan, Mass.||D5K, Member|
|18||Dante Lara, King NastyProvidence, RI||D5K, Member|
|19||Robert Lara, King RizzChelsea, Mass.||D5K, Member|
|20||Angel Abymael Ortiz, King AbbyRandolph, Mass.||D5K, Member|
|21||Angel Rodriguez, King AceDorchester, Mass.||D5K, MemberCrown Council Chairman for Boston|
|22||Alexis Velasquez, King BoobooDorchester, Mass.||MSB, Inca|
|23||Angel Calderon, King Bam||MSB,(Former) State Team Head of Security|
|24||Oscar Pena, King O-Block||D5K, Member|
|25||Jose Rodriguez, King StutterNew Bedford, Mass.||New Bedford, Inca|
|26||Orlando Santiago-Torres, King Landi||New Bedford, Cacique|
|27||Robert Avitabile a/k/a Bobby||New Bedford, Associate|
|28||Taliyah Barboza, Queen TaliyahNew Bedford, Mass.||New Bedford, Member|
|29||Josue Carrasquillo, King PlayboySpringfield, Mass.||New Bedford, Member|
|30||Michael Cotto, King GordoNew Bedford, Mass.||New Bedford, (Former) Regional Officer|
|31||Juan Figueroa, King PunDorchester, Mass.||New Bedford, Member|
|32||Issac Felix-Rivera, King Izzy||New Bedford, Member|
|33||Kevin Guadalupe, King MillyNew Bedford, Mass.||New Bedford, Member|
|34||Shelton Johnson, King ShellsNew Bedford, Mass.||New Bedford, Member|
|35||Tyson Jorge, King Music||New Bedford, Member|
|36||Emanuel Lopez-Velez, King Manny||New Bedford, Probationary Member|
|37||Luis Mendez, King Primo||New Bedford, Member, Incarcerated|
|38||Raekwan Paris, King D-Bo||New Bedford, Member|
|39||Jayco Reyes-Smith, King Javy||Former New Bedford Member, now in North Carolina|
|40||Luis Santiago, King Tiny||New Bedford, Member, Incarcerated|
|41||Roberto Vargas, King Royalty||New Bedford, Member|
|42||Jose Vasquez, King Fearless||New Bedford, Member|
|43||Natanel Velazquez, King NaelNew Bedford, Mass.||New Bedford, Member|
|44||Israel Rodriguez, King ImperialLynn, Mass.||North Shore, Inca|
|45||Alfred Nieves, King AlfyLowell, Mass.||Lowell, Inca|
|46||Marlon Rivera, King Pluto||Fitchburg, MemberD5K, Founder|
|47||Ines Lugo, Queen ChinaNew Bedford, Mass.||New Bedford, Secretary|
|48||Jeremia Medina, King SweepyNew Bedford, Mass.||New Bedford, Enforcer|
|49||Bienvenido Nunez, King ApacheEnfield, CT||State Team, Inca|
|50||Tanairy Ruiz, Queen TanairyNew Bedford, Mass.||New Bedford, Member|
|51||Xavier Valentin-Soto, King X||New Bedford, Member(Former) Cascique, Incarcerated|
|52||Joel Francisco, King Casper||Rhode Island, Member|
|53||Eric Thomas, King E||Rhode Island, Inca|
|54||Alvin Mojica, King Humble||Worcester, Inca|
|55||Sophia Velasquez, Queen Sophia||Fitchburg, Member|
|56||Dairon Rivera, King Mafia||Fitchburg, Member|
|57||Hector Adorno, King Gordo||Springfield, Member|
|58||Jesus Diaz, King Kiko||N. Shore, Member|
|59||Henry Caribe, King 40cal||N. Shore, Member|
|60||Jonathan Cassiano, King Legend||Springfield, Member|
|61||Antoine Goodson||Associate, gun supplier to gang|
|62||Derek Southworth||Associate, gun supplier to gang|