Federal racketeering charges have been filed against eight alleged members of a violent St. Joseph street gang.
Prosecutors allege that members of the group engaged in drug trafficking, armed robberies, extortion, murder and attempted murder.
The St. Joseph-based group also operated in Kansas, Iowa and Massachusetts, and recruited many of its members from Puerto Rico, according to a federal grand jury indictment.
Victor Matias-Torres, 35, was the alleged leader of the gang that began operating when he moved to St. Joseph in 2010.
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The indictment alleges that members of the group made money by selling drugs and through robbery, burglary and extortion. They allegedly robbed rival drug dealers to eliminate competition and also extorted “protection” money from their rivals and innocent victims.
According to the indictment, members of the group, “promoted a climate of fear in the community through repeated waves of gunfire, beatings and destruction of property, among other crimes of violence and intimidation.”
Luis Alfredo Villegas-Rosa, 28, allegedly killed John O. Baynham Jr. on Feb. 5, 2015, in St. Joseph. Villegas-Rosa is charged in the indictment with discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and murder resulting from the use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence.
Gang members were also indicted for five other incidents where victims were shot or shot at. They also face allegations of holding up at least five check-cashing businesses in St. Joseph.
Others named in the indictment are: Luis Gabriel Villegas-Rosa, 35; Angel Antonio Martinez-Torres, 37; Angel Rios-Rosa, 30; Jose Morales-Delgado, 32; Luis Calderon-Oliveras, 26; and Ismael Marquez, 29.
They are all of St. Joseph residents.