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FBI, cops arrest accused gang members

In a move to head off the violence that has plagued the Huntington Station area and prompted calls to shutter a nearby school, officials said FBI agents in the midst of a long-term investigation have arrested the top leadership of the local chapter of the Latin Kings street gang and several associates.

Among the 10 people arrested Thursday and late Wednesday on racketeering and other charges was Angel Cordero Jr., identified as the leader of the Huntington-area chapter, and the former leader of the Latin Kings on all of Long Island, court papers said.

"They have terrorized the community through an ongoing and violent feud between the Latin Kings and members of other gangs," Eastern District federal prosecutor Carrie Capwell said Thursday at the arraignment of nine of those arrested in federal court in Central Islip. "The feud resulted in a series of shootings and gunfire, including near a middle school in Huntington Station."

Communities fight back

The arrests come as communities on Long Island are grappling with gang violence and pressing elected representatives for more resources. One week ago, the FBI said it would boost its anti-gang personnel and added agents to gang investigations.

The federal warrant supporting the arrests lists three gang shootings, one near the intermediate school Sept. 1. But it does not list the most recent shootings near the school on March 11 and March 17. Gunfire near the Jack Abrams Intermediate School in Huntington Station has caused some in the community to call for its closing and for pupils to be reassigned.

Sources familiar with the investigation have said that the FBI and the Long Island gang task force, which includes Nassau and Suffolk county police, have had an active investigation into the Latin Kings for several years, including the activities of the Huntington chapter. It has resulted in the solving of a number of crimes allegedly committed by the group, the sources said.

But the investigation was not supposed to surface for a while as agents and police continued to probe other unsolved crimes that may have been linked to gangs, including the most recent shootings, the sources said.

Officials decided to make arrests in the investigation this week to head off a possible escalation in gang violence.

According to court papers, the Latin Kings investigation began in 2007, when Cordero was the Long Island leader of the Latin Kings. The court papers said that the investigation included taping gang meetings and turning gang members into informants. "This isn't television," one of the sources said. "There's a big difference between knowing who you think did something and proving it."

Warring gangs

The violence listed in the arrest warrant dealt with the Latin Kings' apparent war with two other street gangs whose memberships are mostly black: the Southside Posse or SSP, and the Crips. In two altercations, a victim was shot by a member of the Latin Kings who thought he was targeting a member of SSP. None of the wounds were fatal, according to court papers.

In each of the shootings, a gang member subsequently sold to an FBI informant a gun linked to the shooting through ballistics, the court papers said.

The 10 members or associates of the Latin Kings were charged with a variety of crimes, including conspiracy, assault with a dangerous weapon as a racketeering act, distribution of cocaine, solicitation of assault with a dangerous weapon, gun trafficking, possession of gun with serial number removed, and being a felon in possession of a weapon. A conviction on the racketeering act alone could lead to a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

U.S. Magistrate E. Thomas Boyle held them without bail, pending a future hearing. The 10th person arrested was identified only as a juvenile. Cordero's attorney, Terrence Buckley, of Commack, said his client is not guilty and the government's case against him hinges on the word of a single informant.

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