Imported Latino gang hit by Project Royal Flush
Adrian Humphreys, National Post
Published: Tuesday, April 13, 2010
(Project Royal Flush a reference to the poker hand featuring matching king and queen playing cards that saw nine arrests in the the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation gang. Canwest News Service)
The gang announced itself with an attack at the Christie subway station in Toronto in the summer of 2007 that saw a 13-year-old paralyzed and three men hospitalized, an act meant as the initiation into the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation for one man by attacking another who hinted he wanted to leave.
A national hunt for suspects followed and in 2008 officers raided two Toronto apartments, uncovering a treasure trove of information on the unusual gang's inner workings, including its manifesto, membership lists and the Bible used to swear in new recruits.
The gang was so well organized that police also seized filled-out membership applications and minutes of meetings, written in Spanish.
Several arrests and convictions were made in the subway attack, but what followed went beyond most investigations, prompting a check on the immigration status of all of the names by the Canada Border Services Agency.
The result was Project Royal Flush — a playful reference to the poker hand featuring matching king and queen playing cards — that saw nine arrests this past October.
The eight men and one woman do not face criminal charges but rather allegations of inadmissibility in Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Two other men were quietly added to the immigration caseload, also for membership in the gang.
Today, the lone woman facing deportation, Carla Campana, known by the nickname “Gato Loca” (Crazy Cat in Spanish), appears before the Immigration and Refugee Board for a hearing.
The 23-year-old Chilean stands accused of being a member of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, a gang steeped in ancient Latino history and mythology.
Of her 10 alleged comrades, six have already been ordered out of Canada, although only two have been removed: 24-year-old Abel Antonio Zambrano, known as “King Goofy,” who acted as treasurer, and Bolivar Romero, 24, who was already in prison for assault, were both deported to Ecuador.
Still in Canada is Flavio Mauricio Reyes Criollo, 23, known as “King Fido,” the alleged leader and founder of the Toronto chapter.
Mr. Criollo was a member of the gang in his native Ecuador before coming to Canada. Once here, he was asked by the gang in his homeland to form a chapter in Toronto, and he personally recruited several of the members arrested.
Also ordered out was Ricardo Correa-Ochoa, 22, of Colombia who was charged in the subway attack.
The remaining men are citizens of a diverse list of Latin American countries: Bolivia, El Salvador, Colombia and Dominican Republic.
In October, the IRB denied an application by the National Post to open the admissibility hearings of one of the men. That case proceeded behind closed doors on the grounds there is a serious possibility that his life would be endangered.
Another of the men had a hearing rescheduled because he was declared medically unfit to appear, apparently after he was attacked in jail.
Still, in previous hearings, the IRB heard that the gang had sporadic activity in Toronto over several years with between 20 and 30 members.
Most of those arrested were considered risky enough to keep in custody pending their hearings.
While the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, usually abbreviated as ALKQN, is small by Toronto standards, its global connections and affinity to its namesake in the United States made it of particular concern to police.
Although new in Canada, in the United States it is a powerhouse; the largest Hispanic gang that carved out a bloody history.
Formed in Chicago in the 1960s as the Latin Kings, it began as an attempt by young, poor Puerto Rican men to protect themselves on the inhospitable streets of their adopted homeland.
The gang earned a reputation for violence and fought its way to be treated as equals with much larger and more established street gangs before spreading across the United States.
With a declared intention to unite all Latinos, the increase in Hispanic migration bolstered its ranks. At the same time, it became a force in drug trafficking, armed robberes, extortion and murder to protect its interests, according to last year's U.S. National Gang Threat Assessment.
The assessment predicted that the U.S.-based ALKQN would: “continue to foster relationships with wholesale-level drug traffickers in Mexico and/or Canada.”
The gang has evolved into a diverse force; at the same time as some members are involved in crime, others position the organization as a legitimate forum for community activism.
A website linked to the Latin Kings offers assistance to members, including the Dr. Phil-sounding come-on: “Does it seem like your personal life is suffering because of the Nation?”
The site offers career assistance, help with resums, letters of recommendation and promotes literacy, saying: “An illiterate King is a weak King, and a weak King has no place in a strong Nation.”
At previous Royal Flush IRB hearings, the ALKQN was accepted as an organized crime entity in Canada and the CBSA touts the project as another way of tackling gangs.
“This initiative shows how provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act can be leveraged to advance law-enforcement priorities that ensure public safety and stem organized crime and the violence associated with it,” said Anna Pape, a spokeswoman with CBSA.
Hearings on the remaining cases are pending.
Related Topics :
Abel Antonio Zambrano
Flavio Mauricio Reyes Criollo
Crime and Law
Canada Border Services Agency