BOSTON (WHDH) - Federal prosecutors, and FBI agents, call the Latin Kings one of the largest criminal organizations in the world, an established, organized, and well-funded operation, with 11 chapters in Massachusetts alone.
Those operations, investigators say, are protected by violence.
“They’re called violent gangs for a reason. Their violence is a big part of their existence,” says James Alan Fox, a criminologist and professor at Northeastern University.
7NEWS obtained video evidence entered on the record U.S. prosecutors used to argue why many of the 62 members they arrested in December during Operation Throne Down should stay behind bars.
The videos were used during detention hearings.
In one video, the gang was not afraid to assault and rob a rival gang member in the middle of the street in broad daylight.
“Part of the respect that gang members have is because their demonstrated willingness to use violence in a variety of situations when necessary,” said Fox.
In 2019, federal prosecutors say the Latin Kings and another gang began throwing punches in a brawl on Sawyer Street in New Bedford that involved dozens of people and was eventually broken up by police.
Much of the video evidence was recorded by an FBI informant who infiltrated the gang and created recordings for more than four years.
In one of the informant’s videos, you see the coordinated beating of a man the Latin Kings said spread rumors about members.
During the beating, prosecutors say one of the state’s highest-ranking members of the Latin Kings picks up a baseball bat and swings while other people punch and kick the man
“Disloyalty and traitors can be a threat to the gang,” Fox said, adding that violence is also used to enforce the rules internally, where violations can range from fines to death.
“They have total control over their members by threat of violence,” says Professor Fox.
Prosecutors say the Latin Kings have their own judicial system, where members are formally charged, and those found guilty are punished.
In one of the videos, 7NEWS obtained, a member named Tito pleaded for his life after a kill order was issued against him.
Prosecutors say he was given a beating in the legs instead when he was found guilty of not attending meetings during a “trial” in Connecticut.
In another video, his friend Philly is given what’s called a pumpkin head, a beating from head to toe.
“There’s a reason of course, why the US Attorneys would use these kinds of videos because it buttresses their argument that they’re dangerous and should be detained prior to trial,” Fox said.
With concerns over coronavirus, 10 of the 62 Latin Kings members arrested in December have since been released pending trial. That released list does not include the top East Coast and state leaders.
“It’s a big hit precisely because we are able to take out all of the leadership,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling at the time of their arrests. “It will be extremely difficult for the gang to regroup in the region.”
Fifteen members were denied release, and five have their requests pending.
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