EAST CHICAGO | After 10 years, federal authorities have charged members and associates of the Two Six street gang with the murder of East Chicago’s Julio Cartagena in 2003.
David Capp, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, announced the charges during a news conference Thursday at the East Chicago Police Department. He said the defendants are eligible for the death penalty, but the decision to seek death rests with the U.S. attorney general.
Charged in Cartagena’s murder are purported local Two Six leader Jesus Valentin Fuentes, 39, of Chicago and East Chicago; Kiontay Kyare Pennington, 34, of Gary; Oscar Cosme, 41, of East Chicago; and Adron Herschel Tancil, 36, of East Chicago.
Capp said that in November 2003 Fuentes directed Two Six members to kidnap Cartagena’s family as a way to recover a large quantity of cocaine Cartagena had stolen from Fuentes. Cartagena, a fellow Two Six member, reportedly took cocaine from a Portage storage locker in 2002. The cocaine had been fronted to Fuentes by members of a Mexican drug trafficking cartel, the federal indictment stated.
Fuentes was residing in Mexico trafficking narcotics and running a recording studio at the time the cocaine disappeared, according to the indictment. He allegedly directed his associates to place a tracking device on Cartagena’s vehicle to establish his whereabouts.
When this was not successful, Fuentes allegedly directed Louis Henderson, Pennington and other Two Six members to kidnap Cartagena’s children and their mother at gunpoint from their Hammond home to pressure Cartagena, then 25, to either return the drugs or the money.
Hammond police soon rescued the family, and no one was harmed.
Fuentes then directed Two Six members to kidnap Cartagena, the indictment states. On May 16, 2003, Two Six members Pennington, Tancil and Henderson, with Cosme (an associate of Henderson), allegedly shot and killed Cartagena in East Chicago during an attempted kidnapping. Capp noted their getaway vehicle crashed and the driver, Henderson, 36, was killed.
At the time, East Chicago police reported four occupants of a black Ford Crown Victoria wearing blue windbreakers with the letters “POLICE” stenciled across the backs in white capital letters opened fire on Cartagena at the intersection of Fir Street and Columbus Drive, striking him several times.
In September, federal authorities charged Pennington, Tancil and Cosme with use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and causing death. In Thursday’s superseding indictment, Pennington, Tancil and Fuentes were charged with murder in aid of racketeering and kidnapping. They, along with Cosme, also are charged with the use of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime (distribution of cocaine) and crimes of violence (murder and kidnapping), stated a federal indictment.
All four suspects are in custody. Tancil is jailed in Louisiana on unrelated charges, Capp said.
He said the charges are the result of an ongoing investigation between local and federal authorities over the past two years. As to why it took 10 years to bring charges in the case, Capp said there were evidentiary concerns before, but witnesses have recently come forward.
He believes the arrests will put a dent in street crime in Northwest Indiana and Chicago.
“If you are a member of a criminal enterprise or an associate of a criminal enterprise … we are coming after you. You are next,” he said.
The charges were filed as a result of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives in Merrillville and its HIDTA Taskforce, the FBI and the East Chicago and Hammond police departments. Prosecution of the case is assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney David Nozick.