18 gang members arrested for allegedly selling drugs

by Karen Jordan
December 1, 2004 (Chicago) Federal authorities say they have broken up a crack cocaine operation in Chicago and made a dent in the leadership of a street gang. Eighteen people are behind bars but three others remain at large.

Among those arrested Wednesday was the gang's current leader. Investigators say he oversaw an operation that sold crack cocaine on the streets of Humboldt Park, Logan Square and Cicero. Details of the gang's alleged activities are described in a federal complaint that's 120-pages long. Prosecutors say they're not done with their investigation and hope to arrest the three other members on the loose.

Federal prosecutors say that until two months ago, 33-year-old Fidel Hernandez was the leader of the Maniac Latin Disciples. Now the former leader is running from the law after initially cooperating with the investigation into the gang's alleged criminal activity.

Also on the loose are lower-ranking gang members Wayne Spinato and Janette Rosado. The three make up a total of 21 Maniac Latin Disciples charged with selling crack cocaine on the streets of its home base of Humboldt Park and Logan Square. Federal state and local officials made the announcement Wednesday.

"More than ever, all of us in law enforcement are working as partners to investigate and prosecute the worst gangs and their leaders based on shared intelligence," said Gary Shapiro, first assistant U.S. state's attorney.

The Maniac Latin Disciples are one of three principal Hispanic gangs that are active on the northwest side. The MLD's are comprised of the Don, the leader, who make decisions with the ministers. The ministers then delegate responsibilities to governors, which are stationed in certain areas of their turf, who oversee shorties or young gang members.

"Chicago street gangs, like this one, are pretty organized, they're pretty hierarchical. They have chains of command, they have leadership, they have ways of passing on the leadership. That's not something you find everywhere," said Shapiro.

Investigators say there was similar bust of Maniac Latin Disciples five years ago and say dismantling a gang is a slow and steady process. "Even prosecuting their leadership once isn't going to solve anything, the pressure has to be constant and you have to keep coming back again and again," said Shapiro.

Federal state and local law enforcers started investigating the gang in March 2003. The 18-defendants in custody will appear in federal court Thursday to answer to charges.