Informant aides arrest of Latin Kings

December 6, 2006

A government informant who spent more than two decades in the Latin Kings helped bring down the drug-dealing gang's "Supreme Inca" and dozens of underlings, federal authorities announced Tuesday.

A three-year investigation led to a series of raids Tuesday, seeking to arrest 29 alleged Latin Kings accused of running a wide-ranging drug-trafficking operation on Chicago's South Side and in the south suburbs.

Those charged include six Summit residents, a Blue Island man accused of providing a friend with a Russian assault rifle he thought would be used in a Texas slaying and two Tinley Park brothers who allegedly used tow trucks to deliver cocaine.

The key informant, who joined the Latin Kings in 1980 and has been helping in the investigation since 2003, wore a wire, recorded phone calls and set up drug buys for federal agents, prosecutors said. They said he survived a close call when stripped of his secret recording device during a meeting with alleged gang leaders in a trailer park near Justice.

Fernando "Ace" King, 36, of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood, was identified as the so-called "Supreme Inca," the Latin Kings leader in the Chicago area. He was arrested Tuesday morning at Piazans' restaurant, 8242 S. Kedzie Ave., which he co-owns.

The investigation was led by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, other federal agencies and suburban police departments including Summit, Hickory Hills and Orland Park.

It paid off with what federal authorities said was a "decapitation strike" against the gang, adding that 90 guns and 16 kilograms of cocaine were seized during the course of the investigation.

"When we ran into roadblocks and obstacles, it would have been easy to say, 'let's stop here and take what we have,' " Andrew Traver, special-agent-in-charge of the ATF's Chicago office, said.

Federal prosecutors said the gang is organized into seven distinct regions, including an area dubbed "Crown Town" near Midway Airport and a Southland district stretching from Summit to Chicago Heights. Law enforcement officials said they weren't surprised to track Latin Kings activity into the suburbs.

"For those people who for whatever reason still feel gang crime is limited to the city of Chicago and doesn't go into the suburban areas, if this isn't a wake-up call then I don't know what is," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. "Gangs do not see boundaries."

Jesse Guajardo, identified as the Latin Kings leader in the Summit area, allegedly purchased 150 kilograms of cocaine from a Los Angeles supplier during an 18-month stretch in 2003 and 2004 -- once paying $1.8 million for a 50-kilogram batch. He was arrested nearly a year ago on sealed federal charges.

In 2004, federal agents sent the key informant to buy cocaine from Guajardo at his residence in the Sterling Estates trailer park near Justice. During the transaction, Guajardo used a special scanner to check the informant for a wire and discovered his recording device.

Guajardo let the informant leave but made a menacing phone call to him a few days later, according to the government.

"Consider this your one and only warning, OK?" Guajardo told him. "If I see you, if they catch you, you're not going to be the same way ever again."

"We pretty much decapitated the Latin Kings on the South Side," said Andrew Traver, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the main agency involved in the investigation.