The Spanish Civil Guard have seized members of an extremely violent chapter of the notorious Latin Kings street gang, including its leader.
Crack teams from the Civil Guard carried out the operation to dismantle the faction in the Madrid and Galicia regions late last week.
Sixteen arrests were made, including of a minor and a woman. The chapter’s leader, Eric Javier Velastegui, is among those detained.
The faction called itself the STAS (Sagrada Tribu [Sacred Tribe] American Spain).
Police say Velastegui was leading it from prison, where he has been serving a sentence for rape since the early 2000s.
The woman arrested is his partner, say police.
Officers also seized multiple large bladed weapons, firearms, cash, and other items in the raids.
The Civil Guard described the faction as “a perfectly organised group, with a clear purpose of committing crimes, and strict internal discipline”.
Its members financed it through violent robberies, threats, and drug trafficking.
They reportedly recruited minors in schools in the northern Madrid municipality of Galapagar, as well as neighbouring areas.
Of the 16 arrested, 12 have been issued precautionary measures.
The Latin Kings gang – or Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation – is among the largest Hispanic and Latino street and prison gangs in the world.
It was founded by Puerto Ricans in Chicago, USA, in 1954 and its members are believed to number in the tens of thousands.
Its activities include drug trafficking, assault, burglary, homicide, identity theft, and money laundering.
The Spanish Civil Guard said in a statement: “Sixteen members of this criminal organisation, which carried out its criminal activity mainly in the Community of Madrid, and was based in the localities of Madrid and Galapagar, have been arrested.
“This chapter of the Latin Kings was part of a section called STAS (Sagrada Tribu American Spain), and included the most violent faction within this violent youth group.
“The chapter’s leader, who was the founder of the Latin Kings in Spain in the early 2000s, led the organisation from prison, where he is serving a sentence for rape.”