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2002 News Releases NJSP Badge



SFC Al Della Fave, NJSP Public Information Office
(609) 882-2000 x6514
John R. Hagerty, DCJ (609) 984-1936

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State Police Street Gang Unit Spearheads Operation Catapult

Statewide Law Enforcement Initiative To Focus Resources On Gang Activity & Gang-Related Crime In Targeted New Jersey Cities

Defendant List, Indictments and related attachments

     TRENTON - Attorney General David Samson, Peter C. Harvey, First Assistant Attorney General and Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, and Colonel Fred Madden, Acting Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, today announced the indictment and arrest of 41 alleged members of the violent and dangerous Latin Kings street gang on a wide-ranging list of criminal charges including the planned attempted murder of a rival gang member, the sale of heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana to fund gang activities and enrich ranking members, the theft and resale of stolen automobiles and other stolen property for profit, and the possession, use and sale of prohibited assault weapons.

     According to the Attorney General, the indictments are the result of a 14-month investigation dubbed "Operation Catapult" conducted by the New Jersey State Police Street Gang Unit. The joint law enforcement investigation targeted the leadership hierarchy and membership of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (Latin Kings) street gang - one of the largest and most organized criminal street gangs operating in the state. The investigation successfully tracked and documented alleged Latin King gang activity in Essex, Hudson, Union, Passaic and Ocean counties.

     The investigation determined that the Latin Kings operate as a well-organized "business" under the oversight of a State Crown Council led by a chairman and six council or "Crown" officers. Additionally, State Police detectives uncovered a well-structured, clearly defined criminal organization with a defined chain of command and written operating procedures that include formal constitutions, by-laws, oaths and manifestos designed to direct criminal activities for profit, collect member dues and enforce discipline through violence and extortion.

     "Today’s indictments send a loud and clear message to those who see gang membership as a ticket to commit crime and to terrorize communities that they will not be tolerated. The full weight of New Jersey’s law enforcement community has been dispatched to eliminate gangs and gang activity," Attorney General Samson said. "The Attorney Generals’ Office, the New Jersey State Police, the Division of Criminal Justice and the resources of federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies have stepped-up their vigilance and will continue their joint partnerships and ‘round-the-clock’ efforts to infiltrate, investigate and prosecute gang members and gang-related activity no matter where they operate."

     "Today we have struck at the organizational heart of one of New Jersey’s most violent, entrenched and pervasive gangs. I see Operation Catapult as a springboard for the forging of a great partnership among law enforcement agencies in the battle against gang activity. It is this partnership which will drive the cancer of gang violence from our state," said Col. Madden.

     In announcing Operation Catapult, Director Harvey also announced that the Attorney General’s Office is coordinating a statewide, anti-gang law enforcement initiative which maximizes resources from numerous federal, state, county, and local law enforcement agencies. The "Gangs, Guns & Drugs" initiative will include resources from the Division of Criminal Justice, the United States Attorney for New Jersey, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF), the New Jersey Department of Corrections, the Juvenile Justice Commission, the Essex, Hudson, Union, Passaic, Mercer, Camden and Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Offices, county sheriff departments and local police and the State Police Street Gang Unit..

     The "Gangs, Guns & Drugs" initiative was developed to support the state, county and local law enforcement agencies investigating and prosecuting drug and gun crimes related to gang activities in the targeted cities of Newark, Irvington, the Oranges, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Paterson, Trenton, Camden and Atlantic City. The initiative assigns specially trained Deputy Attorneys General and state investigators from the Division of Criminal Justice to assist the various state, county and local anti-gang and narcotics task forces as they undertake extensive undercover investigations geared to root out illegal narcotics and weapons trade - the lifeblood of street gangs.

     According to Director Harvey, the State Grand Jury returned 16 separate indictments which charge __ Latin King street gang members in five New Jersey counties (Essex, Union, Passaic, Hudson and Ocean) with racketeering, leader of organized crime, racketeering conspiracy, money laundering, kidnaping, aggravated assault, robbery, theft by extortion, possession of weapons (including prohibited assault weapons), distribution and possession of controlled dangerous substances (heroin, cocaine and marijuana), maintaining and/or operating a drug manufacturing facility, receiving stolen property, fencing, possession of motor vehicles with altered VIN numbers, terroristic threats, tampering with a witness, and hindering apprehension.

     The investigation targeted Latin King leaders and members at the state and local level. Throughout the course of the investigation, numerous weapons were confiscated, including three assault rifles and four 9mm handguns, 12 kilograms of cocaine was seized, 19 stolen motor vehicles valued at more than $250,000 were identified and recovered and more than 30 separate law enforcement agencies participated in the investigation and arrests.

     A separate State Grand Jury indictment outlines the Latin King organization and identifies eight individuals as the leadership hierarchy of the State Crown Council. The State Crown Council allegedly oversees all activities and illegal enterprises of the various Latin King chapters throughout the state. The indictment identifies Isabelino Gonzalez as a Chairman of the State Crown Council who allegedly reorganized the Latin King street gang after other members were arrested and jailed on murder charges. Elliot Ambert and Juan Carlos Torres are identified as members of the State Crown Council who allegedly authorized Latin King gang members to distribute illegal drugs, demand monetary dues and to purchase firearms. Nelson Alvarado, identified as a member of the State Crown Council, allegedly ordered 30 members of the Elizabeth Chapter to use firearms to assault gang rivals. Henry Pena, also identified as a member of the State Crown Council, allegedly authorized the physical assault of members in order to obtain monetary dues. Miquel Santiago was identified as a member of the State Crown Council who allegedly distributed illegal drugs, including heroin, to finance Latin King activities. Andres Piguerias, identified as a member of the State Crown Council, allegedly ordered an attack of a rival believed to be organizing a new Latin King chapter without authorization. Rosa Cruz was also identified as a member of the State Crown Council who allegedly authorized the physical assault of members to ensure compliance with Latin King rules and regulations.

     The remaining 15 State Grand Jury indictments target county and local Latin King chapters, identify various individuals as Latin King gang members and outline specific illegal acts allegedly committed as part of the business of the Latin King street gang. The indictments detail alleged criminal activities such as kidnaping; terrorizing and threatening the lives of rival individuals and the lives of their children for violating Latin King rules and regulations or to prevent them from testifying in legal proceedings and cooperating with law enforcement; illegal drug distribution, including the sale of heroin, cocaine and marijuana; the purchase, possession, use and resale of illegal firearms, including prohibited assault weapons; the organizing, planning, financing, directing and managing the trafficking of stolen automobiles and other stolen property for profit.

     Additionally, the investigation uncovered a large-scale, multi-state cocaine trafficking network allegedly run by members of the New Jersey Latin King street gang with supply connections reaching to Illinois and distribution connections in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other east coast states. As a result, a separate investigation into the alleged multi-state drug trafficking network was launched by the Newark High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force which includes the federal DEA, FBI, New Jersey State Police and state, county and local law enforcement agencies. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office also participated in the investigation. The investigation resulted in the seizure of 12 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of more than $360,000.

     The investigation was initiated and conducted by the State Police Street Gang Unit and received legal and administrative support from Deputy Attorneys General assigned to the Division of Criminal Justice. Additionally, federal law enforcement agencies including the FBI, ATF and DEA, the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Essex, Hudson, Ocean, Union, and Passaic County Prosecutor and Sheriff Offices’, and various local police agencies devoted resources to the investigation.

     Director Harvey and Colonel Madden credited Captain Rick Fuentes, DSFC Thomas Alexander, DSG Keith Bevacqui, Det. I John S. Sullivan of the State Police Street Gang Unit for their dedicated work in pursuing the continuing and often complicated investigation. Deputy Attorney’s General Christopher Matthews and Christine D’Elia of the Division of Criminal Justice Organized Crime & Racketeering Bureau and Leo P. Cox, Pedro J. Jimenez and James E. Jones, Jr. of the major Narcotics Bureau were assigned to the investigation and presented the cases to the State Grand Jury.

In the interest of investigative security and pursuant to established court requirements, the Attorney General’s Office, the State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice are limited in discussing specific details regarding the ongoing investigation and the alleged conspiracies. All persons charged in criminal indictments are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

     A listing of the defendants, charges and participating law enforcement agencies is attached to the press release.

     Additional information, including copies of the State Grand Jury indictments, a listing of the defendants and charge information, defendant photographs, participating law enforcement agencies, press release and gang-related information is available via the New Jersey State Police Web Page at or the Division of Criminal Justice Web Page at

# # #

Police Departments Participating in "OPERATION CATAPULT"

New Jersey State Police
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms
Drug Enforcement Administration
Deputy Attorney Generals from the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice
Essex County Prosecutor’s Office
Essex County Sheriff’s Department
New Jersey Department of Corrections
New Jersey Division of Parole
Newark Police Department
Jersey City Police Department
Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office
Union City Police Department
Hoboken Police Department
Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office
Dover Township Police Department
Lakewood Police Department
Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office (wiretap)
New Brunswick Police Department (wiretap)
Tinton Falls Police Department (wiretap)
Neptune Township Police Department (wiretap)
Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office
Union County Prosecutor’s Office
Elizabeth Police Department
Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office
Paterson Police Department
Passaic Police Department
Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office (wiretap)
Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office (wiretap)
Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office
Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department

Defendant Information:

Click Image for Printable PDF Version
Printable PDF File of Above image>>

PDF files require a free reader available from Adobe.

Defendant List and Current Charges>> (PDF file for printing)

Related Indictments (PDF format):

Indictment--re: Jose A. Figueroa, Thomas Marino

Indictment--re: Christopher Rodriguez, Wilfredo Acevedo

Indictment--re: Steven Perez, Andres Pigueiras, Joshua Martinez, Edwin Baez, Paul Galdames

Indictment--re: Steven Perez, George Mercado, John Doe #1,
John Doe #2

Indictment--re: Jose Burgos, Jeffrey Delacruz, Francisco Delacruz, Angel Tirado

Indictment--re: Elliot Ambert, Juan Carlos Torres, Nelson Alvarado, Henry Pena, Miguel Santiago, Isabelino Gonzalez, Andres Piguerias, Rosa Cruz

Indictment--re: Clarence Estevez, Xavier Torres, Ernesto Pomales, Ramon Estevez

Indictment--re: Adam Roman

Indictment--re: Jeffrey Delacruz, Francisco Delacruz, Jose Colon, Fernando Claudio, Daniel Ribera

Indictment--re: Daniel Ribera

Indictment--re: Yahaira Gonzalez, Santi Nazario

Indictment--re: Luis Roman-Vega, Angel Rivera

Indictment--re: Dixia Vasquez, Nicholas Martinez

Indictment--re: Nicholas Martinez

Indictment--re: Japhet Lopez, Juan Urena, Angel Rosado, Jose Colon

Indictment--re: Miguel Santiago



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