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Latin Kings deemed active on street despite arrests

Suffolk police patrol the area as students are

Suffolk police patrol the area as students are dismissed for the day at Jack Abrams Intermediate School in Huntington Station. (March 24, 2010) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

With the arrests this week of 10 members or associates of the Latin Kings street gang in Huntington Station, officials claimed a victory against a recent rise in gang-on-gang attacks.

But more than a dozen active members of the Huntington Station chapter remain on the streets, police say. While membership is fluid, Suffolk police estimate there are between 100 and 200 active Latin Kings on Long Island, including established groups in Hempstead and Freeport.

The father of a 17-year-old Huntington Station teen beaten in an October attack by Latin Kings members called local gangs "out of control."

"My son almost got killed," said the father, a city police officer who asked not to be identified. "He was just assaulted as he was walking."

Suffolk police said the attack was gang-related and carried out by members of the Huntington Station chapter.

Among those facing federal racketeering and other charges is Angel Cordero Jr., the alleged leader of the local Latin Kings chapter, which police say is the most active gang in Huntington Station.

"We hope this sends a message that the actions of these illegal street gangs are taken seriously," said Deputy Insp. Gerard Gigante, head of Suffolk police's Gang Suppression Team.

The Latin Kings have their roots in 1940s Chicago and have been on Long Island for about two decades.

Cordero, who lives in Deer Park, has been a member since his teenage years and rose to "first crown," or leader, officials allege. They say he has little criminal history despite being a past leader of the overall Latin Kings organization on Long Island.

Amimta Morejon of Huntington Station, the mother of another man charged in the sweep, Edwin Morejon, said she'd often asked if he was in a gang. "He says 'No, mama, but I do have friends who are in gangs but I'm not involved." Attempts to reach other family members were unsuccessful.

Police called the group "highly organized," holding meetings, collecting dues and directing financial enterprises - primarily selling crack, heroin and guns.

Suffolk police and the FBI-led gang task force had separate investigations on the Huntington Station group until last summer, when they merged.

The FBI said last week it would increase personnel in its Long Island office to combat a rise in gang-related shootings and stabbings in Brentwood, Central Islip and elsewhere.

"We also bring the federal hammer in the tool kit," said FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko. "When you get locked up federally, there is no parole, no early outs."

Lenny Tucker, executive director of Brentwood Residents Against Violence Everyday, said he is seeing more cop cars and fewer gang members on the streets at night.

"It's a cat-and-mouse game right now," he said.

With Jennifer Maloney

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