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Gang unit swoops down

At least six law enforcement agencies invade an apparent meeting of Latin Kings' statewide leadership at a Tampa clubhouse.

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS and MICHAEL DONILA
Published August 21, 2006


[Times photos: Daniel Wallace]
Officials arrest alleged members of the Latin Kings gang during a raid Saturday afternoon at the Caribbean American Club in South Tampa.
At least 100 agents with the Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, state attorney's office, ATF and FBI busted an alledged statewide meeting of the Latin Kings gang at the Caribbean American Club in South Tampa on Sunday.

TAMPA - More than 100 officers from at least six law enforcement agencies raided what they called a statewide leadership meeting of the notorious Latin Kings gang Sunday, arresting dozens.

As authorities in gloves carried brown paper bags out of the Caribbean American Club off Interbay Boulevard and searched vehicles, one handcuffed young man flashed a sign behind his back.

Other men sporting baggy shirts of black and gold, the gang's colors, were questioned as several young women were escorted into Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office vans.

Along with sheriff's deputies, agents with the Tampa Police Department, the State Attorney's Office, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were on scene.

They arrived with a search warrant at 3 p.m. and worked into the night.

"This is a culmination of a long-term investigation," said Jose Docobo, chief deputy with the Sheriff's Office, who said the raid was months in the making.

The secrecy surrounding the operation continued Sunday, even as the arrested people were processed into custody.

Authorities would not discuss details of the case or charges but promised an accounting today at a news conference.

Even the Caribbean American Club president, George Haylock, had no idea that the club's building, which is routinely rented out for events, would be involved in the operation.

He learned after the raid that it was a law enforcement task force member who rented the club for a "birthday, welcome home party" for $600 in rental fees and $100 deposit. The club does not run background checks for people who rent the venue.

Haylock said agents apologized to him after the raid and that there was some "small damage" done to the building. He said he would like whoever is responsible to pay for it.

Haylock stressed that his club didn't know that alleged gang members were going to be there and that agents told him that they chose his venue because there are not many exits. Haylock said after Sunday's raid that club officials will look into running reference checks on their renters.

"We've never had any problems, and it wasn't our members who were involved in this," Haylock said. "We hope people realize this. We don't want the bad publicity."

Docobo didn't comment on specifics of charges, but according to the Florida Department of Corrections Web site, the gang's main focus is "to control drug trafficking and internal gang discipline, both within the prison and community."

The Latin Kings, the oldest and largest Hispanic-led gang with roots in Chicago, has strong ties in Tampa. Last year, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office and the FBI identified at least 122 members in the county, making it Hillsborough's largest gang.

They're not afraid to make themselves known, either.

On his MySpace.com profile, Antonio Arriaga, 20, of New Port Richey boasts "kings for lyfe" on his profile and posts the gang's five-pointed crown symbol, its crest and a video of two men making the gang sign.

Four months ago, Tampa was one of six cities in the country to receive $2.5-million in federal grants to combat gang activity. Others included Los Angeles; Cleveland; the "222 Corridor," which stretches from Easton to Lancaster, Pa., near Philadelphia; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; and Milwaukee.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or 813 226-3354. Michael Donila can be reached at mdonila@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

SUSPECTS ARRESTED

On Sunday evening, the following suspects were listed in the arrest log: Jessica Alicia Ramirez, 20, of Tampa; Candida Raquel Franco, 18, of Miami; Celina Maria Hernandez, 20, of Tampa; Mariloly Centeno, 23, of Tampa; Reinaldo Luis Arroyo, 22, of Tampa; Gabrial Antonio Madrigal, 20, of New Port Richey; Joseph J. Gouveia, 20, of New Port Richey; Toni Marie Garcia, 39, of Zephyrhills; Antonio Dominic Arriaga, 20, of New Port Richey; Jared Hernandez, 19, of St. Petersburg; Leandro Rafael Beato, 23, of Clearwater; Camilo Ernesto Gonzalez, 23, of Miami; Michael Riain Rocca, 18, of Tampa; Christian Ivan Colon, 19, of Tampa; Ruben A. Aguayo, 20, of Tampa; Jose Ignacio Lao, 26, of Miami; Luis Manuel Hernandez, 23, of Tampa; Robert Adams III, 27, of Wesley Chapel; Jorge Montalvo Jr., 18, of St. Petersburg; Anthony Jeremy Margarejo, 24, of Tampa; Efren Rosado, 25, of Tampa; Angel Silvio Gonzalez, 22, of Tampa; Frank Tadeo Carrasco, 20, of Miami; Jorge Gerimo Villacis, 30, of Deltona; Rafael Rivera, 22, of Pinellas Park; James Taylor Rojas, 23, of Tampa; Carlos Noel Verestin, 24, of Tampa.

[Last modified August 21, 2006, 05:51:34]


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