AG’s Office previously indicted alleged Latin Kings leader and 10 other men on charges they formed “hit squad” to commit assaults for gang and plotted to assault correctional police officers
TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck today announced the indictment of an inmate on charges he conspired with members of a prison “hit squad,” allegedly led by a leader of the Latin Kings street gang, to carry out assaults on two inmates at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.
The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) yesterday obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Daniel Balbuena, 29—an alleged member of the Gran Familia Mexicana street and prison gang currently incarcerated at Southern State Prison—with the following offenses:
- Conspiracy (2nd Degree)
- Attempted Aggravated Assault (2 Counts, 2nd Degree)
- Aggravated Assault (2 Counts, 3rd Degree)
The indictment is the result of an investigation by members of the Department of Corrections (DOC) Special Investigations Division (SID) and the OPIA Corruption Central Squad.
It is alleged that Balbuena made a deal with members of the Latin Kings “hit squad” in which he agreed to assault an inmate targeted by the hit squad. In return, hit squad members allegedly agreed to assault a member of a gang hostile to Gran Familia Mexicana whom Balbuena wanted assaulted.
Balbuena allegedly plotted the attacks in April 2020 with Roberto Garcia, 26, of Carteret, N.J., and Andy Reyes, 26, of Somerset, N.J., who were indicted in September 2021, along with the alleged leader of the hit squad, Frank Blake, 34, of Hillside, N.J.—an alleged leader of the Elizabeth, N.J., chapter of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation street gang (Latin Kings)—and eight other men.
On April 5, 2020, Balbuena allegedly carried out his attack in the prison yard of New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, repeatedly punching and kicking the victim in the head, causing him to be hospitalized with head trauma. The next day, April 6, Garcia allegedly attacked the second victim in the prison yard, punching and kicking him in the head and upper body, resulting in bodily injury.
Garcia and Reyes were charged in connection with those assaults in the September 2021 indictment of Blake and the alleged “hit squad.” Balbuena was not charged in that indictment, which identified him only as “Individual #1.” That indictment charged defendants with a total of five attacks on inmates in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, as well as a planned assault on another inmate in Northern State Prison in Newark that DOC prevented. Further details of that indictment are available in the press release issued on Sept. 22, 2021. Balbuena was initially charged by complaint on Oct. 18, 2021.
Blake and co-defendant Alexander Chludzinski, 28, 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 new indictment secured by our Office of Public Integrity & Accountability and DOC’s Special Investigations Division reflects our commitment to hold anyone who threatens the safety of inmates or correctional officers fully accountable. I commend all who worked 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.”
The indictment is posted online at: https://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases22/Balbuena-Indictment.pdf
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Deputy Attorneys General Travis Miscia, Samuel Rubinstein, and Matthew Lynch are prosecuting the case and presented the indictment to the state grand jury for the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.
Defense Attorney: Assistant Deputy Public Defender Jacqui Higueruela, Mercer County.