Four alleged Latin Kings set out from Joliet on Monday to rob what they thought was a Chicago stash house loaded with bricks of cocaine.Always wary of law enforcement, the gang members had carefully planned the “lick,” according to federal charges unsealed Thursday. At a meeting a few days earlier in a Joliet tavern parking lot, they patted each other down to check for government wires, removed shoes and socks, lifted up shirts and inspected waistbands. As an added layer of caution, before heading to the drug house, they hid their handguns in the car’s air filter.
“If we get stopped, they (the police) don’t check the hood,” one of the would-be robbers was quoted as saying in a criminal complaint.
What three of the men didn’t know was that the fourth had been working undercover with federal authorities for months. The robbery was just an elaborate undercover ruse. And despite the gang members’ vigilance, much of their planning had been captured on a hidden recording device, even the pat-downs.
The three, Justin “Fatman” Davila, 23, his brother Jason, 21, and their associate Nieko “Yogi” Hadley, 20, were arrested outside a gas station near Romeoville after they had grown suspicious they were under surveillance by law enforcement. Each was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
Their arrests were just one part of a sweeping, two-year narcotics investigation targeting the Latin Kings and their drug distribution networks stretching from Mexico to the west and southwest suburbs and into Chicago’s West Side, authorities said. In all, 26 of the gang’s alleged members and associates were facing federal narcotics charges. State charges were filed against 17 others in Cook and Will counties, authorities said.
At the centre of the case was the daring and exhaustive undercover work done by the same federal agent who was able to infiltrate multiple factions of the notoriously violent street gang and gain the trust of high-ranking members over a long period of time, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Tracy.
“The work this agent did was very, very dangerous,” Tracy said.
One of the rings infiltrated by the agent was led by Alan “Ghost” Cisneros, 27, of Summit, identified by prosecutors as the Midwest leader of the gang’s nationwide network until his May arrest.
Another alleged leader, Damian Rivera, 31, of Burbank, was targeted in 2011 after customs agents on the Texas-Mexico border discovered nearly 2 tons of marijuana hidden in furniture on a tractor-trailer, prosecutors said. The shipment was bound for a Chicago-area company marked “D. Rivera Construction.”
Eight days after the seizure, one of the confidential informants recorded Rivera worrying whether the narcotics could be tied to him, according to the charges. Rivera allegedly told the informant he had all the receipts for the furniture as well as documents to prove he was a legitimate businessman.
“They wanna investigate me, where I’m getting my money from, well I’m a union carpenter,” Rivera allegedly boasted.
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(c)2012 the Chicago Tribune
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