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Copyright 2005 Newsday, Inc.

Newsday (New York)

July 21, 2005 Thursday

NEWS; Pg. A03

627 words

22 in gang busted;
3 alleged leaders of Latin Kings arrested after a yearlong police investigation into Brentwood chapter


A yearlong investigation of a Brentwood-based chapter of the Latin Kings street gang has ended with the arrests of 22 alleged members and associates - including the top three leaders - on drug and weapons charges, Suffolk investigators said yesterday.

"These were the highest levels of people involved in the organization," said Suffolk Deputy Chief of Detectives Dennis Caine, who said the anti-gang unit scored a major coup against gang violence in an operation that deployed 100 officers and executed 13 search warrants July 7.

"We understand if you chop off the head, the body goes limp," Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said at a news conference at the district attorney's office in Hauppauge yesterday. "This recent gang bust is why Suffolk County is the safest in the nation."

Police said they confiscated $1 million in cocaine, heroin and marijuana, $30,000 in cash, guns, including an AK-47, and the "constitution," a set of bylaws governing the organization, through search warrants executed across the county.

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said the constitution included an initiation protocol, procedures on how to deal with informants as well as a section that stated members are "not to put God, religion, family or friends or parole before the Nation."

The July 7 sweep yielded the arrest of George Carrion, 34, of 198 Sherman St., Brentwood, who police identified as the leader of the Brentwood-based chapter, known as the "Toltec Chapter," of the Latin Kings. Carrion was charged with first-degree burglary and first-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and was held on $1 million bond in Suffolk jail. He faces up to 49 years in jail if convicted.

Two other of the Latin Kings' highest "crowns" were also arrested. Jesus Santos, 34, of 916 North Hamilton St., Lindenhurst, who police consider a third in command, was charged with first-degree burglary and held on $500,000 bond, and faces up to 25 years in jail if convicted. Pedro Cintron, 28, of 63 Carmen Mill Rd., Massapequa, was charged with second-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. He has not been arraigned yet. The other defendants face a variety of drug and weapons charges.

The investigation began last year with the arrest of Raul Gonzalez, considered by police the organization's second in command. Police declined to say whether Gonzalez, who is being held while awaiting trial, had cooperated in the investigation.

Relatives of the alleged gang members maintained their innocence. Reached by phone, a woman who identified herself as Carrion's mother but declined to give her name said her son was never involved in gang activity.

"I know he didn't do it," she said. "He's been away from all of that. His children are waiting for their daddy to come home."

Angelina Perez, 31, of Bay Shore, said she and boyfriend Kenneth Montanez, known by police as King Hops, were putting their children to sleep when he was arrested July 7.

"They [the police] didn't care that there were children present," she said. "My 1-year-old daughter had to go to the hospital because she wouldn't eat or drink for three days ... We didn't move out here from the Bronx for this. He is not a criminal."

Defense attorney Philip Murphy said that his client, Andres Vanegas, 22, of Islandia, along with the others arrested, were not members of the Latin Kings.

"He's always maintained his innocence ... and he is innocent of these particular charges," Murphy said of Vanegas.

Spota said the Latin Kings have two chapters in Suffolk, eight in Nassau and many others in Chicago, New York and across the country.

Police said they are still seeking four suspected Latin Kings members believed to be involved in criminal activity.
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