Hit Squad Allegedly Was Formed by Leader of Latin Kings Gang Who Also Plotted Violence Against Correctional Police Officers; Indictment Charges New Assaults, More Men in Ongoing Investigation
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TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck today announced the indictment of an alleged local leader of the Latin Kings street gang and 10 current and former inmates under his command who allegedly formed a “hit squad” within the prison system to commit assaults on behalf of the gang.
Frank Blake, aka “Lafay,” 33, of Hillside, N.J., an alleged leader of the Elizabeth, N.J., chapter of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN) street gang, was initially charged in April 2021 along with eight other alleged members of ALKQN who allegedly conspired to carry out assaults on behalf of the gang in the state prison system. They were charged at that time with a brutal attack on an inmate in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and a planned assault on another inmate in Northern State Prison in Newark that was prevented by the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC).
The Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) obtained a state grand jury indictment on Tuesday, Sept. 14, charging defendants with four more vicious assaults in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. The indictment charges the nine original defendants plus two additional alleged ALKQN gang members. The indictment was sealed pending the arrest of defendant Maurice Diaz Young, 35, of Trenton, N.J., who was arrested today.
The indictment is the result of an investigation by members of the DOC Special Investigations Division (SID) and OPIA Corruption Central Squad. The investigation revealed that Blake and inmate Alexander Chludzinski, aka “D Noble,” 27, of Phillipsburg, N.J., allegedly discussed going to the homes of DOC-SID investigators leading this investigation to commit violence against them.
“We will not tolerate gang-related violence in our state prisons,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “This indictment reaffirms our commitment to ensuring the safety of both inmates and correctional officers behind the prison walls. I am especially grateful to our Office of Public Integrity & Accountability and DOC’s Special Investigations Division for their partnership on this investigation.”
“We will continue to work with the Department of Corrections to neutralize the dangerous and corrosive influence of gangs in our prisons and protect the people who are held in state custody,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher. “We will not allow gang leaders to orchestrate violence between inmates and undermine the security of our prison system.”
“Central to our mission is a commitment to operate safe and humane facilities,” said New Jersey Department of Corrections Acting Commissioner Victoria Kuhn, Esq. “We have zero tolerance for those that compromise the integrity of our efforts and applaud the work of the NJDOC’s Special Investigations Division and the OPIA in bringing these individuals to justice.”
The indictment is posted online at: Blake et al Indictment
The following 11 men are charged with second-degree conspiracy, and nine of them—Blake, Diaz Young, Lago, Garcia, Chludzinski, Washington, Reyes, Zarate, and Cardona—are charged with first-degree gang criminality. Blake is also charged with first-degree promoting organized street crime.
- Frank Blake, aka “Lafay,” 33, of Hillside N.J.
- Eduardo Lago, aka “King Bay Bay,” 28, of Newark, N.J.
- Roberto Garcia, aka “Taz,” 25, of Carteret, N.J.
- William Figueroa, aka “King Stitch,” 27, of Hightstown, N.J.
- Alexander Chludzinski, aka “D Noble,” 27, of Phillipsburg, N.J.
- Kevin Washington, aka “King Jafi,” 32, of Atlantic City, N.J.
- Andy Reyes, aka “Chango,” 25, of Somerset, N.J.
- James Zarate, aka “King Samurai,” 33, of Randolph, N.J.
- Larry Cardona, aka “King Legend,” 28, of Elizabeth, N.J.
- Maurice Diaz Young, aka “King Onyx,” 35, of Trenton, N.J.
- Juan Colon, 53, of Trenton, N.J.
The indictment alleges the following acts of violence and attempted acts of violence against inmates in the state prison system:
- It is alleged that at Blake’s direction—and with Figueroa, Reyes and Diaz Young participating in planning the assault—Garcia and Lago assaulted an inmate in the prison yard of New Jersey State Prison in Trenton on Sept. 28, 2020, punching and kicking him in the head, and causing him to suffer respiratory failure and a traumatic brain injury.
- Between December 2020 and April 2021, Blake allegedly conspired with and directed Chludzinski, Reyes, Washington, Zarate, and Cardona in planning an assault on an inmate at Northern State Prison in Newark. DOC-SID investigators learned of the alleged plot and placed the targeted inmate in protective custody to prevent the attempted assault.
- It is alleged that on Oct. 18, 2019, Chludzinski attacked an inmate with a makeshift weapon known as a “shank” in a shower facility in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, causing the victim to suffer multiple puncture wounds.
- In April 2020, Reyes, Garcia, and a member of a different street gang identified in the indictment as “Individual #1” allegedly planned that Garcia would attack an inmate in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton on behalf of Individual #1, in exchange for which Individual #1 would attack an inmate who was targeted by Reyes and Garcia. On April 5, 2020, Individual #1 allegedly carried out his attack in the prison yard, repeatedly punching and kicking the victim in the head, causing him to be hospitalized with head trauma. The next day, April 6, 2020, Garcia allegedly attacked the second victim in the prison yard, punching and kicking him in the head and upper body, resulting in bodily injury.
- It is alleged that Zarate and Cardona attacked an inmate on April 21, 2021 in the prison yard of New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, repeatedly punching and kicking the victim in the head and body, resulting in significant bodily injury.
The indictment charges Diaz Young and Colon with the second-degree crime of solicitation or recruitment to join a criminal street gang for allegedly soliciting an inmate to join ALKQN and participate in criminal conduct on behalf of the gang in November and December 2020.
Blake and Chludzinski are charged with second-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution, third-degree terroristic threats, and fourth-degree obstruction for the alleged threats of violence against DOC-SID members investigating this case. Cardona, Chludzinski, Reyes, and Zarate are charged with possessing shanks, and Cardona is charged with possessing a cell phone in prison.
When Blake was arrested on April 22, 2021, investigators executed a search warrant at his home, seizing a .45-caliber pistol, a .357-caliber revolver loaded with hollow-point bullets, a 9mm pistol, an illegal large-capacity magazine, additional bullets, over one-half pound of methamphetamine, and two digital scales. For those items, he is charged with second-degree possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, second-degree possession of a weapon during commission of a drug offense, first-degree possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and other drug and weapons offenses.
Deputy Attorneys General Colin J. Keiffer and Travis Miscia are prosecuting the case and presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of OPIA Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione. They were assisted by Deputy Attorney General Heather Hausleben and other members of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.
Acting Attorney General Bruck thanked all of the investigators and detectives who conducted the investigation for the DOC Special Investigations Division and the OPIA Corruption Central Squad. For security reasons, they are not being named individually. He also thanked the New Jersey State Police TEAMS North Unit, Division of Criminal Justice Cyber Crimes Unit, Union County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Division, and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Intelligence Unit for their assistance in the investigation.
The first-degree charges of gang criminality carries a sentence of 15 to 30 years in state prison. The other first-degree charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000. The sentences for gang criminality and promoting organized street crime must be served consecutively to the sentence for any underlying offense. Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Possession of a weapon as a convicted felon carries a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of five years. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000, while fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
For Blake: Thomas R. Ashley, Esq., Newark, N.J.
For Garcia: Robin Kay Lord, Esq., Trenton, N.J.
For Figueroa: Assistant Deputy Public Defender Matthew Mordas, Mercer County.
For Chludzinski: Peter V. Abatemarco, Esq., Lambertville, N.J.
For Washington: Tina M. Frost, Esq., West Windsor, N.J.
For Cardona: Assistant Deputy Public Defender Olivia J. Moorhead, Mercer County.
For Other Defendants: Undetermined.