Final Two Holland Latin King members Sentenced


GRAND RAPIDS, MI – U.S. Attorney Patrick Miles announced today that U.S. District Court Judge Robert Holmes Bell imposed sentences of over 20 years for the final two defendants in the multi-year joint federal and state fbi logoinvestigation and prosecution of 31 Holland Latin Kings (HLK) gang members.

Judge Bell sentenced David Casillas to 30 years in federal prison, with 12 years credit for time served on earlier Latin King related offenses; he sentenced Antonio Rios to 25 years in prison, with five years credit for time already served. Casillas and Rios were convicted of conspiracy to engage in racketeering and conspiracy to deal over five kilograms of cocaine after a two-week trial in June 2014. Defendant Rios was acquitted of a separate marijuana conspiracy charge.




U.S. Attorney Miles said, “One of the Department of Justice’s top priorities is helping local law enforcement agencies protect our nation’s communities as safe places where our citizens can thrive. Violent street gangs, wherever they exist in West Michigan, are a true threat to the law-abiding people of our communities. This case is an example of the federal-state-local partnerships that my office uses as the most effective way to combat organized, violent groups.

The collaboration of the Holland Police, Michigan State Police, and ATF was pivotal in this case. Without these partnerships, this case would not have been possible. My office shares great pride with our partners in successfully prosecuting this local chapter of a violent national gang.”

The three-year investigation revealed that the HLK began in the early 1990’s and grew to the size of over 50 members by the mid-2000’s. The Holland group was a local chapter of a national gang, the Almighty Latin King Nation.

Holland members followed a national manifesto and regional constitution. The Holland chapter maintained a strict hierarchical structure that was mandated by national edict, including regional and local leadership positions. For example, a local chapter’s leaders were elected by membership vote.

The president carried the title of “Inca,” the vice president was called the “Cacique,” and the “Enforcer” was responsible for maintaining a cache of firearms and imposing punishments (“violations”) for infractions of the gang’s rules. The organization’s finances were maintained by the “treasurer,” and the coffers were supplied by cocaine and marijuana sales.

The gang conducted secretive meetings, called “servicios,” which began with a Latin King prayer, after which members paid dues which were used to purchase narcotics, firearms, and pay members’ criminal-defense bills. These “servicios” also included beatings of members as punishment for “violations” of the organization’s rules. Members employed anti-surveillance security procedures during “servicios,” including strip searches, which were ultimately unsuccessful because officers covertly recorded several meetings.

The gang also benefited from the national organization’s structure, which was based in Chicago, Illinois, also known to the gang as the “Motherland.” Latin King Members in Chicago and other states supported the HLK by providing guidance and narcotics.

The HLK maintained supremacy among West Michigan gangs through the profitable sale of cocaine and marijuana (gang rules forbade the sale of other substances). The gang also benefitted from a well-earned reputation of violently defending its turf and members against perceived threats. This included shootings, stabbings, firebombings of residences, beatings, and events of witness intimidation.

By the mid-2000’s, the Holland Latin Kings grew so large that it split into two factions: the East-Side and West-Side, with each subchapter maintaining its own leadership structure. The two subchapters grew to such strength that it became difficult for local law enforcement to conduct routine investigations of crime in Holland and West Michigan because the HLK successfully intimidated anybody otherwise willing to cooperate with law enforcement.

Despite several members being convicted for minor offenses in state court, the gang would financially support incarcerated members, after which the members would quickly return to the gang’s criminal operation. This cycle of crime and violence continued until federal, state, and local authorities began collectively investigating the organization, through the use of confidential informants and the secret federal grand jury system.

The investigation became public on July 19, 2012, when over 100 state and federal officers simultaneously executed search warrants at over 15 residences and a business in Holland, which were all linked to the HLK. This collaborative effort involved the following agencies: the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF); the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office; the Michigan State Police; the Holland Police Department; and the Ottawa County Parole Office.

On February 8, 2013, a federal Grand Jury charged 31 members of the HLK street gang with conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic cocaine and marijuana. The indictment also alleged acts of violence in furtherance of the gang, including attempted murders, shootings, firebombings, beatings, stabbings, and acts of witness intimidation. Of the 31 charged, 29 defendants pled guilty to racketeering offenses. The Holland Latin Kings included at least three Regional Leaders:

  • Eric Ruibal, aka, Cubano – Regional Inca (Leader of all Michigan Latin Kings). Ruibal, a Cuban national, was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic over five kilograms of cocaine. He was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, with 7.75 years credit for time already served.
  • Mario Herrera, aka, Caveman – Regional Leader. Herrera was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and was sentenced to 7.67 years in federal prison, which included a substantial reduction due to Herrera’s cooperation with authorities.
    Desidario Amaro, aka Desi – Regional Leader. Amaro was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and was the only defendant sentenced by
    U.S. District Court Janet T. Neff, who substantially reduced Amaro’s potential sentence for his cooperation with authorities. Amaro was sentenced to 2.75 years in federal prison.
    Several members held leadership positions in the local chapters of the gang.
  • Nicholas Bernal, aka Nicky B – Inca of the East-Side HLK. Bernal was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic 100 or more kilograms of marijuana. He was sentenced to 19 years in federal prison.
  • Francisco Martinez, Jr., aka Chewbacca – Inca of the West-Side HLK. Martinez, Jr. was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic 100 or more kilograms of marijuana. He was sentenced to 9 years in federal prison.
  • James Gonzales, aka Godfather – Cacique of the West-Side HLK. Gonzales was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity. He was sentenced to 16.67 years in federal prison.
  • Ramon Gaytan, Jr., aka King Snaps – Enforcer of the West-Side HLK. Gaytan, Jr. was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic 100 or more kilograms of marijuana. He was sentenced to 16.67 years in federal prison.
  • Arturo DeLeon – Cacique of the East-Side HLK. Deleon was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic 100 or more kilograms of marijuana. He was sentenced to 9 years in federal prison.
  • Francinet Cruz – Enforcer of the East-Side HLK. Cruz was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic 500 or more grams of cocaine. He was sentenced to 19.5 years in federal prison, with credit for 1.5 years of time served.
  • Joseph Martinez, aka Dogface – former Enforcer of the West-Side HLK. Martinez was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic 100 or more kilograms of marijuana. He was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
  • Julio Hernandez, aka Solo – former leader of the East-Side HLK. Hernandez was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic 100 or more kilograms of marijuana. He was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
  • Jose Hernandez, aka BigTime – former Inca of the East-Side HLK. Hernandez was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic 100 or more kilograms of marijuana. He was sentenced to 9 years in federal prison.
  • Frank Cisneros, aka Knuckles – former leader of the East-Side HLK. Cisneros was
    convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity. He was sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison.
  • Ramon Morales – former Inca of the East-Side HLK. Morales was convicted by plea agreement of conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity and conspiracy to traffic 100 or more kilograms of marijuana. He was sentenced to 11.25 years in federal prison.

The remaining seventeen defendants all pled guilty to racketeering offenses. Each was sentenced to federal prison for periods ranging between two and eleven years. All told, the indictment resulted in over 340 years of prison sentences for HLK members.

ATF Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Bogdalek said “Unfortunately, far too many citizens live in fear of gang related violence. One of ATF’s primary missions is to make communities safe from the criminal activities of violent gangs such as the Holland Latin Kings. Along with our state and local partners and the United States Attorney’s Office, we are pleased with the conclusion of this case, knowing that Holland is a safer community as a result of this prosecution.”

The investigation was aided by several other agencies, including the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Kerr County, Texas, Sheriff’s Department.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Russell A. Kavalhuna and Phillip J. Green. Mr. Green is now a federal magistrate judge in the Western District of Michigan.

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