Member of New Bedford Latin Kings Chapter Sentenced for Racketeering Conspiracy and Drug Trafficking
BOSTON – A former member of the New Bedford Chapter of the Massachusetts Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (“Latin Kings”) was sentenced today on racketeering and drug charges.
Roberto Vargas, a/k/a “King Royalty,” 28, was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel to 40 months in prison and three years of supervised release. In February 2021, Vargas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy, and conspiracy to distribute, manufacture and possess with intent to distribute cocaine base.
The Latin Kings are a violent criminal enterprise comprised of thousands of members across the United States. The Latin Kings adhere to a national manifesto, employ an internal judiciary and use a sophisticated system of communication to maintain the hierarchy of the organization. As alleged in court documents, the gang uses drug distribution to generate revenue, and engages in violence against witnesses and rival gangs to further its influence and to protect its turf.
On Sept. 30, 2019, Vargas was one of multiple members of the Latin Kings who travelled to Ruth Street and McGurk Street in New Bedford in order to confront rival gang members. After “flagging” – brandishing a yellow and black Latin Kings bandanna – in the territory of the rival gang, the Latin Kings members approached one of the rival gang members, surrounded him, pointed a firearm at him and demanded his phone. During the robbery, the victim ran and a Latin Kings member chased the victim and fired one gunshot, hitting the victim in the back. The victim fell to the ground and was transported to the hospital, where he was treated and ultimately survived the incident.
Vargas also participated in the drug trafficking conspiracy that the Latin Kings operated in multi-unit apartment buildings controlled by the gang, known as trap houses, throughout New Bedford. Recordings generated during the case captured him distributing cocaine to other Latin Kings members, as well as in a trap house with a kilogram of cocaine that was being prepared to be “cooked” into cocaine base (crack cocaine).
In December 2019, a federal grand jury returned an indictment alleging racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy and firearms charges against 62 leaders, members and associates of the Latin Kings. Vargas is the 45th defendant to be sentenced in the case.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Commissioner Carol Mici of the Massachusetts Department of Correction; and New Bedford Police Chief Joseph C. Cordeiro made the announcement. Valuable assistance was also provided by the FBI North Shore Gang Task Force and the Bristol County and Suffolk County District Attorney’s Offices. Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip A. Mallard of the Organized Crime & Gang Unit prosecuted the case.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.