The Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN, ALKN, LKN) is said to be the largest and most organized Hispanic street gang in the United States of America,which has its roots dating back to the 1940s in Chicago, Illinois.
The Latin Kings street gang was formed in Chicago in the 1940s and consisted predominantly of Mexican and Puerto Rican males. Originally created with the philosophy of overcoming racial prejudice and creating an organization of ”Kings,” the Latin Kings evolved into a criminal enterprise operating throughout the United States under two umbrella factions—Motherland, also known as KMC (King Motherland Chicago), and Bloodline (New York). All members of the gang refer to themselves as Latin Kings and, currently, individuals of any nationality are allowed to become members.
Latin Kings associating with the Motherland faction also identify themselves as “Almighty Latin King Nation (ALKN),” and make up more than 160 structured chapters operating in 158 cities in 31 states. The membership of Latin Kings following KMC is estimated to be 20,000 to 35,000. The Bloodline was founded by Luis Felipe in the New York State correctional system in 1986. Latin Kings associating with Bloodline also identify themselves as the “Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN).” Membership is estimated to be 2,200 to 7,500, divided among several dozen chapters operating in 15 cities in 5 states. Bloodline Latin Kings share a common culture and structure with KMC and respect them as the Motherland, but all chapters do not report to the Chicago leadership hierarchy. The gang’s primary source of income is the street-level distribution of powder cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Latin Kings continue to portray themselves as a community organization while engaging in a wide variety of criminal activities, including assault, burglary, homicide, identity theft, and money laundering.
Latin King documents reveal that Gino Gustavo Colon (a.k.a. “Lord Gino”) is considered the leader or “Sun” of the Chicago Latin Kings. They also refer to him as their “Corona”, which means “Crown”. Currently he is serving a life sentence in federal prison due to a 25-count indictment, which includes charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and other drugs.
The Latin Kings have a hierarchical organizational structure, and they have sets in numerous states across the country. These sets are referred to as “chapters” or “tribes”, with each reporting to an Inca, Cacíque, Enforcer and Regional Officer.The head (or heads) of the entire criminal organization are known as “Coronas” (crowns in Spanish).
The Latin King colors are black and gold; gang markings consist of a 5 or 3-point crown, writings of LK, ALK, ALKN, ALKQN abbreviations (or the whole words); and drawings of the Lion and/or the King Master. Latin King symbolism is usually accompanied with the name and number of the chapter, region or city of the gang. The Latin Kings are of the People Nation, and therefore, represent everything to the “left” in opposition to the “right”, which is representative of the Folk Nation.
The Latin Kings operate under strict codes and guidelines that are conveyed in a lengthy constitution, known internally as the Manifesto.
According to the Latin King Manifesto, there are three stages or cycles of Nation life that constitute Kingism.They are:
- The Primitive Stage: wherein the neophyte member is expected to be immature and to be involved in such activities as gang-banging and being a street warrior without the full consciousness of Kingism.
- The Conservative or Mummy Stage: which is where a member tires of the street gang life but is still accepting of life as it has been taught to him by the existing system that exploits all people of color, dehumanizes them, and maintains them under the conditions and social yoke of slavery.
- The New King Stage: where the member “learns that his ills lie at the roots of a system completely alien to his train of thought and his natural development, due to the components of dehumanization that exist therein”.
According to the Manifesto, “The New King is the end product of complete awareness, perceiving three-hundred and sixty degrees of enlightenment; his observations are free and independent; his thoughts are not clouded by any form of prejudice…For him there are no horizons between races, sexes and senseless labels”, including gang labels for recognition. The New King no longer views the rival warrior as the cause of his ills; instead, he fights against the Anti-King System (social injustices and inequality), a system which seeks to deny and oppress his people: the Oppressed Third World Peoples.
King Motherland Chicago Latin Kings
The Chicago faction of the Latin Kings is recognized as the largest Hispanic street gang, and the largest Chicago-based street gang, in the United States. Although the original Chicago members were of Puerto Rican descent, most members are now Mexican-American. Unlike MS-13 and 18th Street gang—whose great portion of gang membership exists in Central and South America—the Latin Kings have a heavier presence within the United States. The gang has over 25,000 members in the city of Chicago alone and have organized chapters in over 41 states and several Latin American and European countries, including: Mexico, Spain, Dominican Republic, Canada, Italy, Ecuador, Peru, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Brazil, United Kingdom and others. The Latin Kings are mostly of Latino descent, with some Black, White, Asian and Middle Eastern members as well.
Violence is the hallmark of the Chicago Latin Kings. In their beginnings, when they were not great in size, their brutal history and propensity for violence distinguished them from other Latino gangs in Chicago, making them equal players with the larger Black “Super Gangs”, such as the Gangster Disciples, the Almighty Vice Lord Nation and the Black P. Stones. According to the article The Latin Kings Play Songs of Love by John H. Richardson in the February 1997 issue of the New York Magazine, “What also made the Kings different was their unique mixture of intense discipline, revolutionary politics and a homemade religion called Kingism–adding idealism and a bootcamp rigor to the usual gang camaraderie–a potent mixture for troubled ghetto kids whose lives lacked structure and hope”.
They also played a major role in the formation and growth of the People Nation, and in recent times, the Almig Latin King and Queen Nation has grown to be the second largest gang within Chicago.
Federal sting operations against the Chicago Latin Kings
2006: Operation “Broken Crown”
A three-year investigation of the Latin Kings by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), entitled Operation Broken Crown, ended with the arrest of Fernando “Ace” King, who was suspected to be one of the highest-ranking members of the gang and at least 20 others.The operation was conducted in various areas in Chicago and the suburbs.
Prosecutors said the crack in the case came from an informant named Jesse Guajardo, the alleged “Inca” or leader of a southwest suburban crew of the Latin Kings, from whom the witness purchased cocaine on about 10 occasions between 2000 and 2003. In just 18 months alone in 2003 and 2004, Guajardo, arrested in February, allegedly purchased 150 kilograms of cocaine -– including as much as 50 kilograms at one time for about $1.8 million -– from his alleged supplier, Jose Estrada, according to federal charges.
The investigation by ATF and various local, state and federal law enforcement partners when authorities began executing 10 federal search warrants and arresting alleged leaders, members and associates of the Almighty Latin King Nation (ALKN) street gang and individuals who supplied them with and purchased narcotics.
About 10 kilograms of cocaine and 86 firearms were either seized or purchased previously during the investigation, authorities said.
King, was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the Northern Judicial District of Illinois before Judge David Coar to 240 months in federal prison for Unlawful Possession of Controlled Substance, and 120 months for Conspiracy to Possess a Controlled Substance. Judge Coar allowed the sentences to be served concurrently.
2008: Operation “Pesadilla”
Some 400 agents and officers fanned out into the Little Village Community to arrest many of the 40 Latin Kings hit with federal or state charges. Among those charged in the operation were the “Supreme Regional Officer” as well as 32 “Incas” and “Casiques,”: top leaders in the gang’s block-by-block organization.
Among those charged in the drug conspiracy case was Vicente Garcia, 30, whose last known address was Bolingbrook, Illinois, was extradited from Mexico after being identified by authorities as the gang’s No. 2 leader. Garcia, succeeded Fernando King as the gang’s “Supreme Inca” after King was convicted in another federal prosecution
The undercover recordings captured Garcia issuing a decree that each Inca in the 24 Latin Kings sections controlled by the Little Village region of the gang sell a quarter-ounce of cocaine twice a month to generate revenue for the “Nation Box,” a kitty the gang used to pay for guns, drugs, funerals and legal fees, authorities said. Investigators methodically built a case as the wired informant made the rounds handing out drugs and collecting money from gang supervisors month after month. Investigators dubbed their work Operation Pesadilla, Spanish for nightmare.
2009: Operation Augustin Zambrano
Augustin Zambrano, alleged to be a “Corona” of the Latin Kings, making him the highest-ranking leader outside of prison and responsible for overseeing the illegal activities of all factions of the powerful Chicago Latin Kings, is among 18 defendants charged in a sweeping new federal indictment against the gang’s alleged hierarchy. Zambrano and other alleged leaders of the 26th Street Region of the Latin Kings were charged with racketeering conspiracy for allegedly running a criminal enterprise to enrich themselves and others through drug trafficking and preserving and protecting their power, territory and revenue through acts of murder, attempted murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, extortion, and other acts of violence.
The charges result from a sustained, coordinated investigation by multiple federal law enforcement agencies, working together with the Chicago Police Department and other state and local partners, to dismantle the hierarchy of the Latin Kings and other highly-organized, often violent, drug-trafficking Chicago street gangs.
On April 6, 2011, Zambrano and three associates were convicted in federal court of racketeering conspiracy and other charges.
Bloodline Latin Kings
In 1986, to avoid imprisonment for his criminal activities in Chicago, Luis Felipe (a.k.a. King Blood) fled to New York and started his own chapter of the Latin Kings known as the Bloodline. He designated himself as Inca and Supreme Crown of the state of New York. Soon after arriving in New York Felipe was arrested and convicted of murdering his girlfriend. In 1995 Antonio Fernandez (a.k.a. King Tone) was designated Inca and Supreme Crown of New York State and New Jersey, and the ALKQN once again began a transformation.
Street Gang: 1984–1995
In 1991, Felipe was returned to prison after a short release for parole violations stemming from the receipt of stolen goods. However, Felipe continued to guide the ALKQN members, who now numbered about 2000, both incarcerated and free. In 1994, with the rapid growth of the Latin Kings, an internal power struggle erupted and violence within the Kings ensued. Between June 1993 and February 1994, seven Latin Kings were murdered. Following the outbreaks of internal gang violence, Luis Felipe and 19 others were charged with murder and racketeering; the indictments ended in 1995 with 39 Latin Kings and 1 Latin Queen indicted under the RICO Act.
The details of the charges against Felipe were later revealed: Felipe was charged with ordering the killing of William (Lil Man) Cartegena. Cartegena was taken to an abandoned Bronx apartment where he was strangled, decapitated, mutilated and his corpse set on fire. Felipe allegedly murdered Cartagena for theft from the organization.
In 1996, following the trial of Luis Felipe, Antonio Fernandez who was recently blessed as the Inca and Supreme Crown of New York State and New Jersey, kneeled with other Latin Kings in front of the Federal District Court in Manhattan and is quoted as stating: It’s time for a fresh start … Now they can’t hold our past against us. 1996 is believed to be the beginning of the ALKQN’s transformation from a street gang to a “street organization.”
Latin Kings and Queens begin appearing en mass at political demonstrations in support of the Latino community. To further its transformation and efforts to legitimize, the organization begins to hold its monthly meetings (universals) at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in West Harlem. At this time the membership of the Latin Kings is believed to have swelled to 3,000 incarcerated and 4,000 free. The monthly universals are drawing in an attendance of 500-600 regularly. Internal changes to the organization begin to take place as Fernandez amended the ALKQN manifesto to include parliamentary elections and new procedures for handling inter-organizational grievances and removing death as a possible punishment, replacing it with “vanishing”, the act of being banished from the movement.
For the ALKQN, 1997 begins with Felipe being sentenced to the harshest penalty passed down since World War II, Felipe is sentenced to 250 years in prison, the first 45 to be spent in solitary confinement. The other 39 members were sentenced to an average of 20 years in prison for their roles in the crimes. The year would bring further legal troubles as Fernandez and 31 others are arrested in a raid in the Lower East Side and charged with disorderly conduct. The Special Commissioner of Investigation for Schools soon after charges the ALKQN with infiltrating the school system, a school security guard with five years of service is dismissed on charges of unprofessional conduct for his association. The year comes to a close with Fernandez being arrested in December by the FBI for domestic abuse.
The pending charges against Fernandez were dropped in early 1998. Following the release of Fernandez, a joint operation of the FBI, New York City Police Department (NYPD), Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), New York State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) comes to a close with the arrests of 92 suspected ALKQN members. The Latin King leadership insists over half of those arrested are not members. The operation, dubbed Operation Crown, cost the city over one million dollars and took 19 months to complete.
Fernandez was released after four days on $350,000 bail, which was paid for by contributions from community members. Over half of the arrested were charged with misdemeanors, other were charged with weapons possession and drug trafficking. Fernandez was eventually permitted, though on house arrest, to attend monthly universal meetings. It was during his time on house arrest that the Latin Queens underwent a shake up in leadership, dismissing many of the leaders in order to bring in more politically focused members.
The Latin Kings during this period begin to gain legitimacy. First, Lolita Lebrón, who was a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, appointed the New York State ALKQN to protect her during a demonstration in front of the United Nations. Following the UN demonstration, Rafael Cancel-Miranda, a Puerto Rican nacionalista who spent 25 years in federal prison, attended a monthly universal. Before years’ end, Adelfa Vera, Puerto Rican activist, attended a monthly universal and was given sacred ALKQN beads by the present leadership. Adelfa was praised during the meeting and stated “These kids are hope for our liberation struggle. I can die in peace, because we found the continuation”
In 1998 Fernandez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sell and distribute heroin. In 1999 he was sentenced to 13 years in prison, which he is serving at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas and was placed in solitary confinement. He was eventually transferred again and placed in general population.
While originally the Latin Kings are thought to be a male organization, it eventually began to absorb women and give them an equal share. The Latin Queens constituted the female half of the ALKQN.
The Latin Queen agenda is composed of self-respect, independence, family support, ethnic identity and self-empowerment. Seeking such goals has attracted a wide variety of females who had been drug addicted, victimized and/or neglected by families, spouses and partners. Sociologists studying the Latin Kings and Queens have observed the different methods in which both groups attempt to “reclaim and regulate” their environments. The Latin Queens are believed to focus more on their private space issues such as home life and protection and nurturing of their bodies, as opposed to the Latin Kings, who are more concerned with loss of public spaces in their own communities
The evolution of the ALKQN has been viewed by outside sources as being assisted by the addition and greater role in which Latin Queens have played, exposing the ALKQN to a greater range of cross-class supporters than would have been possible prior to their integration.[In regions such as Spain, Latin Queens are helping to legitimize the ALKQN through integration with government sponsored programs. In Catalonia, the 200 person Latin Kings and Queens tribe was designated as the Cultural Association of Latin Kings and Queens of Catalonia. The “cultural program” designation was bestowed through government sponsored programs to assist gangs with integration into society and is led by Latin Queen Melody, Erika Jaramillo.