HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) - A 76-page federal indictment names numerous accused members of the Latin Kings gang in Holland.
Thirty-one accused Latin Kings members were indicted on federal charges ranging from racketeering, to conspiring, to distribute cocaine and marijuana, to various weapons violations.
Local, state and federal authorities arrested 28 alleged gang members Tuesday.
Among those arrested were leaders called Incas -- enforcers who act as security and treasurers who collected money from gang members to pay off bail bonds -- authorities said.
Included in the sweeping federal indictment handed down by federal prosecutors Tuesday are eight alleged members initially arrested in July 2012 and many others, all of whom prosecutors said are affiliated with the Holland Latin Kings.
"It's not over yet. We're still in the process of investigating. We're in the process of trying to bring it to a closure," said Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent Donald Dawkins.
Three accused members have yet to be arrested. Authorities won't say if those people are still in the area, but did say they think they know where they are located.
A Holland Department of Public Safety captain said though there is more work to be done, he is satisfied with Tuesday's work.
The gang's "history of violence and drug trafficking looks like it's going to come to an end soon," Capt. Jack Dykstra said Tuesday afternoon. "The long-term, long-time gang members are being held accountable finally."
The major gang bust was the culmination of about 20 years of investigating that picked up momentum when various law enforcement agencies banded together in 2010.
"The Latin Kings organization has been around for 20 years and we're just very happy that it's starting to come to a close," said Dykstra.
Involved in the bust was the Holland Department of Public Safety, the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department, the West Michigan Enforcement Team, the ATF and several other agencies.
"this [sic] has been a long and unprecedented investigation throughout the Holland area, West Michigan and across the country," Holland Mayor Kurt Dystra tweeted Tuesday afternoon. "this [sic] helps answer what the govt has been doing about gangs. Local, state, and feds have for a long, long time put this .... huge and unprecedented case together. These indictments are incredibly welcome news. Congrats to local, state and fed agencies"
Federal officials said the Holland Latin Kings began in the 1990s when a branch of the Chicago Heights, Ill. Latin Kings came to Holland and combined two local gangs. Federal officials said the Chicago Heights, Ill. gang still plays a role in the local operations.
A federal grand jury alleges the Holland Latin Kings gang is an enterprise whose members engage in crimes of violence and drug trafficking in order to promote the gang and enrich its members while insulating themselves from police, among other things.
The indictment provides a clearer picture of how the Latin Kings operate, including who is at the top and how those leaders are protected. It maps out exactly where investigators say the Holland Latin Kings actually operate -- and they appear to be active far beyond West Michigan.
Investigators said the Holland Latin Kings territory is primarily between N. 24th Street to First Street and between Lincoln Avenue and Graafschap Avenue in Holland.
The gang is broken up into two so-called chapters or sets. The 17th Street chapter -- also known as the East Side Chapter -- and the West Side chapter. Members, who pay $10 dues each week, are bound to protect their turf using threats and violence.
Gang ledgers have been found by federal agents in previous searches, giving agents the names of alleged gang members. The money is available for any member to purchase drugs or guns for resale. After selling the contraband, the member is expected to repay the borrowed money, plus a percentage of the profit. The fund is also used to pay attorneys to represent members who have committed crimes, and to provide money to incarcerated members. The East-Side and West-Side Holland Latin Kings have historically maintained both separate funds and a joint fund.
The two chapters occasionally hold joint meetings called "nation meetings," however they don't always get along.
The membership is divided into several hierarchical layers designed to protect the leaders. The top leader is called the Inca and the second in command is called the Cacique. Each is chosen through elections held every two years or when there is an opening.
There are also regional leaders who will run background checks with Chicago leaders to make sure there are no informants moving from state to state.
Investigators said Latin Kings members store weapons called "nation guns," which are traded between neighboring chapters, including those from Grand Rapids, and out to Chicago.
Investigators said members from Grand Rapids to Chicago
work together, selling marijuana and cocaine, and using tactics to keep witnesses from cooperating with police.
"These suspects who have been involved for this many years have been held accountable by state charges over the years, but this brings the whole organization accountable, and brings the whole criminal organization accountable for what happened," said Capt. Dykstra.
Investigators said it is a far-reaching operation with gang members obtaining drugs from various sources both inside and outside of Michigan, including Chicago and Texas.
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