- The Washington Times - Friday, November 20, 2009

A federal grand jury in Maryland has indicted 19 gang members on racketeering conspiracy charges, authorities said Thursday.

The indictment says the men - ages 19 to 44 - were members of the Latin Kings, a violent street gang, which has operated in Maryland since at least 2007.

Authorities made the announcement after the arrest of 16 men from Maryland and two from the New York City area; one suspect remained at large Thursday.

“The Latin Kings in Maryland have been dethroned,” said Kenneth Melson, deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, at a news conference with county, state and federal officials.

“Let the message get out that violent gangs are not acceptable in our communities, here in Maryland or anywhere else.”

The indictment was returned Wednesday and unsealed Thursday. It details a highly structured group, with its own greetings and written manifesto, that required payments from members. The members used intimidation, violence and threats of violence to facilitate their activities, according to the indictment.

Authorities said the gang is responsible for attempted murders, robberies and other crimes. Members also are accused of having a hit list and attempting to shoot and beat fellow members who wanted to leave the organization.

The gang communicated with members in other states via phone and the Internet. Mr. Melson said gangs nowadays are using social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with each other.

The Maryland members also traveled to New York, Philadelphia and Chicago to meet leaders and other members. Authorities said the main power centers of the Latin Kings have been around Chicago and New York.

A firebombing of a Montgomery County home in January 2008 prompted the inquiry into the group, officials said.

If convicted, those named in the indictment each face up to life in prison.

Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. attorney for Maryland, said there are federal racketeering cases pending against other gangs, including Mara Salvatrucha (known as MS-13) and Black Guerrilla Family. Mr. Rosenstein said officials are targeting leaders and key members of the gangs as they seek to dismantle them.

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