Latin Kings leader gets 60 years
BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org January 11, 2012 12:02PM
Mugshot of Augustin “Old Man” Zambrano,
Updated: February 13, 2012 9:16AM
The head of the Latin Kings — one of the nation’s largest street gangs — was hit with a 60-year federal prison sentence Wednesday and his successor is maintaining a low profile, law enforcement sources said.
Augustin “Old Man” Zambrano, 51, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy in April. His gang is one of Chicago’s oldest and biggest with an estimated 10,000 members in Illinois and 35,000 across the country. The gang operates with a rigid hierarchy resembling a corporation and members must abide by a constitution.
Zambrano was part of a sweeping federal investigation that resulted in charges against more than 30 suspects, most of whom have pleaded guilty or were convicted.
“We know who is the de-facto leader. Word is that he was laying low waiting to see what happened with the sentencing,” one top source said. “No one wants to assume the leadership role... [The case] definitely caused a problem at the mid and upper levels.”
The federal case didn’t do much to disrupt low-ranking members from gangbanging on street corners, though, the source said, adding that investigators will watch to see whether Zambrano or another top Latin Kings member, Fernando “Ace” King, will try to run the gang from federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle handed down Zambrano’s sentence, citing his long criminal record and a lack of acceptance or remorse for the gang’s victims. Prosecutors said they documented 20 shootings connected to the gang in the Little Village neighborhood, including three murders, and called that a “small sample.”
“He entrusted others to do it,” prosecutors said in a court filing. “He put leaders in place who shared his vision . . . to see to it that that Latin Kings acted barbarically.”
The gang’s violent reputation prompted Norgle to empanel an anonymous jury in February 2011. Norgle noted the Kings allegedly put a “kill on sight” order on several government witnesses. At least three witnesses were placed in protective custody.
Norgle also noted that when No. 2 leader Fernando King was convicted by a jury in 2008, the judge received a note saying: “there are several jury members who have concerns regarding personal safety and security.” King was sentenced to 40 years in prison in October.
Zambrano was arrested in 2009. He illegally sold the drug Vicodin to an undercover informant who secretly recorded the transactions, prosecutors said.
Zambrano was the highest-ranking leader of the Latin Kings to be convicted since Gustavo “Gino” Colon, who also holds the title of “Corona” but is serving a life sentence imposed in 2000 for running a continuing criminal enterprise.
Zambrano was responsible for appointing replacements for leadership positions in the gang when members went to prison, authorities said. After the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives busted dozens of members in 2006, Zambrano presided over a meeting to pick new leaders, prosecutors said. One top member allegedly said the gang would thrive despite the arrests, boasting: “They say they decapitated us, dog that’s a f-----g lie. You know it just makes us . . .madder and stronger. ... We gonna keep going.”
In addition to ordering attacks on rivals, Zambrano also ordered punishment for Latin Kings who violated the gang’s rules or incurred his wrath for personal reasons, officials say. In 2008, for example, he ordered that two members would have their hands smashed with hammers for stealing drugs and money from Zambrano’s female friend.
Another time, in 2006, a lower-level leader was ordered beaten for spilling beer on Zambrano’s wife in a bar. “You poured beer on the wrong lady, bro,” the man was told by one of Zambrano’s deputies.
Evidence at trial also showed gang leaders extorted “street tax” from non-gang members, referred to as “miqueros,” who sold false identification documents. Elias Munoz, father of Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), pleaded guilty in 2008 and was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the ring. He allegedly reaped more than $364,000 a year creating phony identification photos.
On Wednesday, Sen. Mark Kirk issued a statement congratulating the U.S. attorney’s office for sending Zambrano back to prison. “I look forward to working with Mayor Emanuel and other leaders across Illinois ... to keep our communities secure and free from the tyranny of gang brutality,” he said.