Reputed Latin Kings leader pleads guilty in 3 Newburgh slayings

A Newburgh city police vehicle. (June 18, 2012)

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

A Newburgh Latin Kings leader pleaded guilty Tuesday, one day before his murder trial was set to begin in federal court.

Jose "King Gordo" Lagos, 23, admitted to murder in connection with a drug crime for the 2010 slaying of John Maldonado, a 20-year-old aspiring gang member, the U.S. Attorney's office announced. He also pleaded guilty to using, carrying and discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence in connection with the 2008 murder of Jeffrey Zachary.

He could face up to life in prison when he's sentenced on May 17.


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Lagos and two other reputed Newburgh Latin Kings leaders, Wilson Pagan and Christian Sanchez, were charged in three fatal shootings in the city, including the slaying of a 15-year-old boy who was killed by mistake.

Pagan and Sanchez are scheduled to go on trial Wednesday.

Lagos' plea follows a series of efforts by authorities to crack down on gang violence in the troubled Orange County city. Earlier this month, Osman Nunez, 24, a reputed Latin Kings leader, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after he also pleaded guilty in Maldonado's murder.

More than 30 members of the city's Latin Kings gang have been convicted in federal court after a series of raids began in the city 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.

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

With Nik Bonopartis, Ken Schachter, Karl de Vries and The Associated Press

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