The Chicago Police Department is once again having its name and reputation tarnished by officers who are alleged to have helped the very criminals they are supposed to be arresting.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office of Northern Indiana on Friday announced the indictment of 19 members of the Latin Kings street gang, as well as Chicago police officers Alex Guerrero and Antonio Martinez Jr., for committing armed robberies on behalf of the notorious Latin Kings street gang.
Guerrero’s and Martinez’s alleged involvement are most troubling, officials say, because they used their badges and, in some cases, their full Chicago police uniforms.
“These men are alleged to have used their statuses as police officers to commit various illegal acts at the direction of Latin King leaders,” U.S. Attorney for Northern Indiana David Capp said at a Friday afternoon press conference at his office in Hammond, Indiana. “The indictment alleges that often while wearing their badge and or utilizing their police-issued vehicle or police-issued weapon.”
Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says Guerrero and Martinez undermine the good work his department is doing to take guns off the streets and arrest violent criminals.
“I want to express our outrage and disgust of the entire Chicago Police Department for the alleged actions of Martinez and Guerrero. It’s unspeakable. It’s something that we cannot tolerate,” McCarthy said while standing next to Capp and flanked by nearly every police chief from Lake County, Indiana. “It reminds us how we need to redouble our efforts to ensure the integrity of all of our officers.”
Guerrero was arrested on Thursday, while Martinez resigned from the force two years ago due to medical reasons. Neither is accused of being actual members of the Latin Kings; instead, they're accused of assisting the gang to make money.
“I’m glad that these officers were arrested. I’m glad that these officers are off the street,” McCarthy said. “We have to ensure that these things don’t happen again. … We have to ensure that we have systems in place to ensure integrity within the police department.”
Prosecutors allege the Latin Kings are responsible for no less than 75 criminal acts and 19 murders in the Chicago and Northwest Indiana area, as well as Big Spring, Texas and into Mexico.
This gang operated primarily in the South Chicago neighborhood and northern Lake County, Indiana.
Nineteen of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to operate a criminal enterprise through numerous acts of violence including murder, attempted murder, assault, and various firearm and drug offenses.
Although 15 Latin Kings members were indicted Friday, only 14 names were released, one name remaining sealed.
Those indicted are: Hiluterio Chaves, 41, Emiliano Esparza, 40, Paulino Salazar, 29, Gabriel Jalomos, 24, Bianca Fernandez, 22, all of Chicago; Sergio Robles, 23, Santiago Gudino, 27, Oscar Gonzalez, 21, Victor Mesa, 23, all of Hammond; David Lira, 28, of Lansing, Ill.; and Antonio Gudino, 30, of East Chicago, Ind.
An additional six people are indicted in the case but were arrested in the last few months. They include: Alexander Vargas, 34, of Highland, Ind.; Sisto Bernal, 45, Jason Ortiz, 28, Brandon Clay, 24, and Martin Anaya, 41, all of Chicago; and Ivan Quiroz, 30, of Posen, Ill.
Most are in federal custody; however, David “Flaco” Lira and Paulino “Chino” Salazar are considered fugitives.
Capp said much of the violence allegedly committed by the defendants were against rival gang members and involved disputes over gun or drug turf.
Capp said members of the FBI, ATF and local law enforcement have recovered millions of dollars in cocaine and marijuana from the gang.
“These gang members went back and forth across the state line. The indictment shows the reach of this criminal organization,” Capp said. “They are even instructing their Latin King members in Texas.”
Capp said Chicago Police Officers Martinez and Guerrero were involved in an armed burglary of a warehouse in Rockford, Ill., where drugs were stolen.
Martinez and Guerrero allegedly made traffic stops of rival gang members. The officers would confiscate any drugs, guns or cash found and turn them over to the Latin Kings.
In December 2006, Latin King leader Sisto Bernal ordered Guerrero and Martinez to head to the Hammond residence of James Walsh, a rival gang leader.
At Walsh’s home, officers allegedly stole cash, drugs and firearms from Walsh and turned them over to the Latin Kings.
Walsh was eventually killed in a double-homicide in Griffith, Ind., just a few months later.
Capp detailed murders allegedly committed at the hands or direction of several other of the named defendants, homicides that occurred in Chicago, or in East Chicago and Hammond, Indiana.
“The gang and violence street problem that we have in this region is not an East Chicago problem. It is not a Hammond problem. And it is not a Gary problem,” Capp said. “It is a regional problem that crosses state lines.”
Friday’s announcement comes a week after Capp announced indictments against several members of the Imperial Gangster Disciples in East Chicago. He says pressure on local street gangs will continue.
“This federal local law enforcement team is here to stay,” Capp said.