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spacer New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety
Office of the Attorney General

Official News Release

 
 

Peter C. Harvey, Acting Attorney General
Joseph "Rick" Fuentes, Acting Superintendent
New Jersey State Police
Vaughn L. McKoy, Acting Director Division of Criminal Justice

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Lt. Al Della Fave, NJSP Public Information Office
(609) 882-2000 x6514

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 13, 2003


 
 
LAST OF LATIN KING CROWN COUNCIL ARRESTED

State Police Street Gang Unit Continues Operation Catapult
Capturing Remaining Gang Leadership

     West Trenton Acting Attorney General Peter C. Harvey today announced the arrest of two of the leading heads of the Crown Council of the Latin Kings and four other Latin King gang members. Today's arrests brings Operation Catapult's total to 47 gang members charged, including eleven of whom held senior Crown Council leadership positions.

     "Today's arrests demonstrate our continued focus upon gang activity in New Jersey with the goal of eliminating these criminal organizations through consistent prosecution and community education programs," said Acting Attorney General Harvey.

     According to Captain Joseph "Rick" Fuentes, Acting Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, the arrests stem from the continuation of an investigation dubbed "Operation Catapult" conducted by the New Jersey State Police Street Gang Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice. The joint law enforcement investigation targeted the leadership hierarchy and membership of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (Latin Kings) street gang - one of the largest and most organized criminal street gangs operating in the state. The investigation successfully tracked and documented alleged Latin King gang activity in Essex, Hudson, Union, Passaic and Ocean counties.

     In October of 2002 the first of the "Operation Catapult" indictments and arrests brought charges against 41 members of the violent and dangerous Latin Kings street gang for the planned attempted murder of a rival gang member, the sale of heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana to fund gang activities and enrich ranking members, the theft and resale of stolen automobiles and other stolen property for profit, and the possession, use and sale of prohibited assault weapons.

     The investigation determined that the Latin Kings operate as a well-organized "business" under the oversight of a State Crown Council led by a chairman and six council or "Crown" officers. Additionally, State Police detectives uncovered a well-structured, clearly defined criminal organization with a defined chain of command and written operating procedures that include formal constitutions, by-laws, oaths and manifestos designed to direct criminal activities for profit, collect member dues and enforce discipline through violence and extortion.

     The investigation was initiated and conducted by the State Police Street Gang Unit and presented to the State Grand Jury by Deputy Attorneys General in the Division of Criminal Justice. Additionally, federal law enforcement agencies including the FBI, ATF and DEA, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Essex, Hudson, Ocean, Union, and Passaic County Prosecutor and Sheriff Offices'and various local police agencies devoted resources to the investigation.

     The New Jersey Street Gang Unit with the assistance of the Hudson County Prosecutors Office and the Union City Police Department built upon "Operation Catapult's" past success by arresting five of the six defendants without incident at their homes earlier today. The following defendants were arrested and charged:

  • Daniel Gomes, aka "King Dee" (Crown Council), 27, 5704 Hudson Ave., West New York, NJ. Charged with distribution of a controlled dangerous substance within 1000 feet of a school zone and conspiracy to facilitate the sale of a controlled dangerous weapon;
  • Rafael Melendez, aka "King Daddy-O" (Crown Council), 32, 242 Schiller St., Elizabeth, NJ. Charged with racketeering;
  • Robert Villalta, aka "King Rob", 23, 1452 76th St., North Bergen, NJ. Charged with distribution of a controlled dangerous substance within 1000 feet of a school zone in three different municipalities and conspiracy to facilitate the sale of a controlled dangerous weapon;
  • Luis Perez, aka "King Louie", 24, 115 Bowers St., Jersey City, NJ. Charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance (14 bags of marijuana), distribution of a controlled dangerous substance within 1000 feet of a school zone in three different municipalities, Conspiracy to Facilitate Sale of a Controlled Dangerous Weapon.
  • Jonathan Matias, aka "King Shorty", 29, 282 Armstrong Ave., Jersey City, NJ. Charged with conspiracy to facilitate the sale of a controlled dangerous weapon;
  • Renzo Castello, aka "King Skills", 25 yoa, 271 First St., Guttenberg, NJ. Arrested May 5 at Pavonia Ave., Jersey City, NJ. Charged with conspiracy to facilitate the sale of a controlled dangerous weapon, possession of a controlled dangerous weapon (knife), and violation of probation.


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