Highland Latin King member testifies about his life of crime
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org September 21, 2012 12:51PM
Updated: October 23, 2012 6:07AM
Highland resident Alexander Vargas described during testimony Friday his rise in the Latin Kings street gang to one of the highest positions in the region and his attempt to move to Indiana to avoid criminal charges and other problems.
“I used to do all my dirt (in Chicago) and then go home and sleep well because no one knew where I lived,” he told a federal jury during the trial of co-defendant Martin “Lefty” Anaya at the U.S. District Court in Hammond.
Anaya is facing charges of taking part in the racketeering conspiracy of the Latin Kings, conspiring to deal large amounts of drugs and murdering Christina Campos in 2009 in Chicago.
Rise to Inca
Vargas, wearing glasses, an orange prison jump suit and shackles around his arms and legs, talked about how he started hanging out with the Latin Kings in the early 1990s when he was 13, beating a person to the point of killing him and burning a house down to prove himself. He was finally inducted into the gang on Dec. 5, 1992, which he’ll always remember because that’s the day he “started a new life.”
The Latin Kings were involved in a war with a competing gang during the 1990s, and Vargas quickly made a name for himself, he said, with police arresting him any chance they could get. He moved up the ranks of the Latin Kings, acting at different points as a chapter inca, or leader, and finally reaching regional inca for the southeast region, which includes much of southern Chicago, its southern suburbs such as Blue Island and Lansing, and the chapters in Hammond, East Chicago and Gary. He was even offered the position of imperial Inca, just one step below the ultimate corona leader, in 2009, but he turned it down because he was trying to avoid getting arrested. When police raided his Chicago house in 2003, he decided to move first to Hammond and then Highland to try to distance himself from the activities of the Latin Kings and to protect his children from that life, he said.
His growth with the Latin Kings also came when he started buying and selling large amounts of cocaine and marijuana, Vargas said, from Mexican drug cartels.
“There were times that me myself alone would pick up over 500 (kilograms of marijuana),” he testified.
At one point he kept 150 kilograms of cocaine at a stash house a block away from a restaurant in Griffith. He and others also started robbing other people to get drugs, including stealing 150 kilograms from the north side of Chicago and another 50 kilograms from a house in Hammond. The drugs continued up to his arrest in June 2010, Vargas said, as he had to hide about half a kilogram of cocaine he had at his Highland house when he found out the police were coming for him.
Although he moved to Indiana to distance himself, Vargas admitted he was still much involved in the Latin Kings, giving missions to his “soldiers.”
“Me being a leader, I was still ordering a lot of murders,” he said Friday, showing no emotion.
Some of those orders came after a chapter Inca, known as Risky, was killed by the Latin Counts in February 2006. Vargas said that was the first time ever a Latin Kings Inca had been killed in his region and that he needed to show they wouldn’t take that. When one of his underlings killed another Latin Counts solider, it wasn’t enough.
“When you kill somebody high up, we expected at least five,” Vargas testified.
Attention moved from the Latin Counts to the Latin Dragons later that year, however, when the Dragons shot and killed Vargas’ brother, Jose, in October. Jose, who was not a Latin Kings member, was not considered the target of the shooting.
Vargas said the killing left him “crushed,” and he turned the full force of the 100 soldiers underneath him to hunting down Latin Dragons.
“How does a leader’s brother get killed?” he told the jury of the reason for his reaction, adding he didn’t care if he had to sacrifice some of his own men.
He eventually discovered that one of the Latin Dragons leaders, James Walsh, was living in Hammond and that he and others would attend a party at Sopranos Lounge in Griffith, the restaurant near Vargas’ stash house. He ordered his men to kill whoever they could, and five of his co-defendants helped shoot and kill Walsh and fellow Latin Dragons leader Gonzalo Diaz in February 2007 as they walked out of the restaurant. Vargas has pleaded guilty to murdering them in aid of racketeering and faces life in prison. He could see a reduction of some kind in exchange for his cooperation, however, along with entering a witness protection program while in prison.
He also described how two Chicago Police Department officers, Antonio Martinez Jr. and Alex Guerrero, first started working for the Latin Kings. The two officers robbed fellow Latin Kings member Sisto Bernal, who had stashed a large amount of drug proceeds at his girlfriend’s house on the east side of Chicago. Vargas said the officers got a fake search warrant and planted pot on the home owner in order to take the money. Bernal, Vargas and others then sent threatening notes to the officers’ families demanding the return of the money.
The two dirty cops eventually met with Vargas and Bernal, telling them the money was gone but that they would work with the Latin Kings to repay their debt by robbing other people of drugs, guns and money. Vargas said the two cops worked with his gang for about seven years. Both men have pleaded guilty in the case.
Vargas also testified about his past with Anaya, which goes back to they day he was inducted into the Latin Kings at Anaya’s house. Anaya at the time was chairman of the Crown Council for their chapter, which is similar to a judge.
Anaya also served as security for Vargas, he said, when he reached the higher positions, helping to keep Vargas safe and to keep lower Latin Kings from bothering him.
“People like me make it to where we are because of people like Lefty,” he said.
Anaya struggled in leadership roles, though, because he was drunk when he needed to be sober to make decisions for the gang, Vargas told the jury.
Vargas admitted that he has twice given false testimony in court when he pleaded guilty to two charges he didn’t actually commit. Vargas said he took the fall to save his fellow gang members.
“So is it fair to say that on at least two occasions, you lied in court?” Adam Tavitas, Anaya’s attorney, asked Vargas.
“Yes,” he responded.
Testimony is expected to continue Monday.