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Three Members of Latin Kings Street Gang Plead Guilty To Trafficking of Heroin and Cocaine in Federal Court

February 3, 2015  |  Posted by: Giovanni DePhillips
Three Members of Latin Kings Street Gang Plead Guilty To Trafficking of Heroin and Cocaine in Federal Court Image courtesy of usmarshals.gov

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Three Pennsylvania men, all alleged members of the New York Latin Kings street gang have pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, including a man known as “King Rampage,” who shot a rival in York City when he was just 17 years old.

Brothers Angel “Flaco” Mendez-Castro, 27, and Cristian “King Rampage” Mendez-Castro, 22, and their cousin, Hector “Fernando” Castro-Padro, 29, are awaiting sentencing dates.

Last week, Angel Mendez-Castro pleaded guilty in Harrisburg’s federal court to conspiracy to import and distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine and heroin between 2010 and 2013.

He also admitted to “using threats of violence against witnesses and (using) firearms to protect the trafficking between Puerto Rico and York,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Harrisburg.

On Friday, Cristian Mendez-Castro and Castro-Padro pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit drug trafficking, and Castro-Padro also pleaded guilty to firearms offenses, records state.

Supplied mid-Atlantic: According to federal indictments, the trio supplied drugs to the Latin Kings in York, as well as to dealers across the mid-Atlantic region.

The men’s indictments state they used guns — some of which were stolen — “to promote and protect their drug trafficking activities.”

According to the indictments, the guns were “distributed to co-conspirators for protection, traded with customers and co-conspirators, and carried during transactions. These firearms were utilized in acts of violence and threatened violence against suspected cooperators with law enforcement.”

The men used “acts of violence” to try to keep witnesses and law enforcement from testifying against them or investigating them, the indictments state.

Operation Sunrise: The prosecutions stemmed from Operation Sunrise, an 18-month multi-agency investigation in York County that made more than 80 arrests, ranging from street-level drug slingers to gang members to “importers,” York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said at a February 2013 news conference about the operation.

Some of those arrested were affiliated with national gangs including the Latin Kings, the Bloods and the Crips, according to police.

Seized during Operation Sunrise were heroin and cocaine with a street value of more than $300,000; 43 vehicles, seven guns and more than $34,000 cash, police said at the 2013 press conference.

Shooting case: Cristian Mendez-Castro spent more than a year in York County Prison for shooting a romantic rival on July 22, 2009. Although he was just 17, Mendez-Castro was charged as an adult and later pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, carrying a firearm without a license and reckless endangerment.

He rode his bicycle up to Michael Gibson and shot him in the thigh while Gibson was near the corner of South Queen and East Princess streets, police have said. At the time, Gibson and Mendez-Castro were dating the same girl and had prior conflicts, according to police.

He was captured Jan. 27, 2010, during a six-hour standoff with police at his home, where police believed a wanted homicide suspect was hiding.

Robbery, escape: In November 2011, Cristian Mendez-Castro got into a chase with police on an allegedly stolen motorcycle, which ended when he crashed into a York City police cruiser, police said at the time.

Officers arrested him and took him to York Hospital, where he managed to remove a handcuff from his left wrist and ran out of the hospital with the handcuff still on his right wrist, police have said.

Two hours later, a patrol officer spotted him at a city convenience store and re-arrested him.

The robbery charges eventually were dropped, but he pleaded guilty to escape and was sentenced to 11-1/2 to 23 months in prison, records state.

Other guilty pleas: Other Operation Sunrise defendants were eventually charged in federal court and pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including:

* William Ortiz, 53, of York, sentenced to 10 years in prison

* Luis Angel “C Lo” Ortiz, 31, of York, sentenced to 12-1/2 years in prison

* Jose “Warrior” Cartegena Jr., 35, of York, sentenced to 5 years in prison

* Marcus “King Paradise” Garcia, 28, of York, sentenced to 65 months in prison

* David “King Knuckles” Ramsey, 32, of York, sentenced to five years in prison

* Carlos Villalongo-Martinez, 38, of York, sentenced to two years in prison

* Brandon Jones, 27, of York, sentenced to six years in prison

* Antonio “King Trigger” Navarro-Garcia, 22, of York, sentenced to five years in prison

* Michael “King Rage” Enriquez, 30, of Camden, N.J., sentenced to 10 years in prison

* Hector Rengifo, 40, of York, who has not yet been sentenced.

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