HAMMOND — A judge has imprisoned a member of the Latin Kings who agreed to help dismantle local chapters of the street gang.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon ordered Francisco “Vino” Gamez, of Hammond to serve 48 months in prison for his previous roles in helping Northwest Indiana chapters of the Latin Kings street gangs conduct violent activities in neighborhoods they considered gang turf.
Gamez pleaded guilty two years ago to a felony charge of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activities. The government specified he fired gunshots Aug. 16, 2013 at rival gang members.
Court documents don’t indicate whether Gamez injured anyone in the gunfire or where in Hammond the shooting took place.
Gamez’s guilty plea was part of a deal in which he agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors who charged his fellow gang members with similar racketeering crimes.
U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II stated earlier this month in a court memorandum that Gamez “played an integral part in the government being able to charge almost 50 Latin Kings, virtually wiping them out of this (Northern Indiana) judicial district.
“On the other hand, his poor choice or choices, once charged in this case, caused the government and the government in the Northern District of Illinois not to call him to trial,” Kirsch explained.
Gamez faced up a maximum penalty of up to 20 year in prison prior to his plea deal.
The government has accused Gamez of involvement in gang-related violence, including attempted murders, aggravated robbery, robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping and narcotics distribution dating back to 2008.
Court records show Gamez served as a lookout for rival gangs in Latin King neighborhoods, used a firearm while working with the Latin Kings, and paid dues into the criminal organization.
The Chicago-based gang had chapters in Hammond, East Chicago, Gary and Lake Station, according to court records.
The case was investigated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Indiana High-Intensity Drug Task Force's FIRE Task Force, the FBI's Gang Response Investigative Team, and the East Chicago, Hammond and Gary police departments. The Lake County prosecutor's office provided assistance.