Osman Nunez, ex-Latin Kings leader, sentenced to 30 years in prison

A Newburgh city police vehicle. (June 18, 2012) A Newburgh city police vehicle. (June 18, 2012) Photo Credit: Leslie Barbaro

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A former Newburgh gang leader was sentenced to 30 years in prison Tuesday, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Osman Nunez, 24, a reputed Latin Kings leader, pleaded guilty in September to murdering John Maldonado, a 20-year-old aspiring gang member who went by the name Tarzan.

Nunez and his underlings believed Maldonado had betrayed them, so they lured him to a place where a gunman was waiting, authorities said. The Newburgh man also pleaded guilty to one count each of weapons possession in relation to a drug trafficking crime, and weapons possession and discharge in relation to a crime of violence.

Nunez also faces five years of supervised release and deportation to his native Honduras, the U.S. district attorney's office said.

At the sentencing before U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel in White Plains, Nunez apologized to the families of the victims and to his own family, his attorney, Avi Moskowitz, said.

"He recognizes the damage and the hurt he has caused to everyone," Moskowitz said Tuesday afternoon.

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Tuesday's sentencing marks the latest step in authorities' efforts to crack down on gang violence in the troubled Orange County city. More than 30 members of the city's Latin Kings gang have been convicted in federal court, and three more alleged members -- Jose Lagos, Wilson Pagan and Christian Sanchez -- will face trials beginning Jan. 23 on an array of gang-related charges, including murder.

The alleged gang members and associates were nabbed during a series of raids in Newburgh beginning in 2010. Those raids -- often involving hundreds of officers and agents knocking down doors throughout the small city before sunrise -- were led by the Hudson Valley Safe Streets task force, an FBI-led unit made up of federal agents, State Police and local police departments.

The Latin Kings and their associates sold crack cocaine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana throughout Newburgh, authorities said. The gang's members protected their drug trade through violent means, including shooting and stabbing rival dealers and members of rival gangs like the Bloods.

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The Newburgh Latin Kings also killed some of their own members, going after those "who were perceived to have fallen out of line," prosecutors said.

Nunez's sentencing comes shortly after a website, NeighborhoodScout.com, ranked Newburgh as the ninth-most-dangerous city in the country based on 2011 data. The city had 531 violent crimes that year, or 18.29 crimes per 1,000 residents, the website claims.

Mayor Judy Kennedy disputed that data Monday, charging that the website mixed City of Newburgh statistics with those of the Town of Newburgh, and said the city plans to release its own crime numbers.

With Nik Bonopartis and Ken Schachter

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