York-based Latin King leader gets 15 years in federal prison

Liz Evans Scolforo

The last of 15 men arrested by federal authorities as leaders of the Latin Kings criminal street gang in York City has been sentenced to prison.

Daniel Pacheco-Morales

Daniel Pacheco-Morales, 44, of York, was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in federal prison, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

He pleaded guilty in April 2015 to conspiracy to distribute heroin in the York area between 2011 and 2013, the release states.

Pacheco-Morales tried to withdraw his guilty plea a short time later, but his request was denied by a federal judge, court records state.

A federal pre-sentence review of Pacheco-Morales determined he is a "career offender," meaning his sentencing guidelines were significantly higher for his crimes than if he had not been deemed a career offender, according to federal court records.

How York City crippled a criminal empire

York-based leaders of the Latin Kings supplied heroin and cocaine to drug dealers across the mid-Atlantic region, according to federal indictments.

They used violence and threats of violence to protect their drug turf — and backed up that violence with guns, some of them stolen, officials have said.

Operation Sunrise: The federal prosecutions stemmed from Operation Sunrise, an 18-month multi-agency investigation in York County that led to more than 80 arrests, ranging from street-level drug slingers to gang members to "importers," York County District Attorney Tom Kearney said at a February 2013 news conference about the operation.

Some of those arrested were affiliated with national gangs including the Latin Kings, the Bloods and the Crips, according to police.

Seized during Operation Sunrise were heroin and cocaine with a street value of more than $300,000; 43 vehicles; seven guns; and more than $34,000 cash, police have said.

Angel "Flaco" Mendez-Castro

Also arrested during Operation Sunrise were brothers Angel Mendez-Castro and Cristian Mendez-Castro and their cousin, Hector Castro-Padro. All three Yorkers were charged federally and are serving time in federal prison. All three also have addresses in Puerto Rico.

Angel "Flaco" Mendez-Castro, 28, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking. During his June 2015 sentencing hearing, presiding U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane described him as violent and as a "crafty kingpin," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

York City Police Detectives tracked down and arrested "Flaco" in Puerto Rico in September 2010.

Cristian "King Rampage" Mendez-Castro, 23, was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit drug trafficking, court records state.

"King Rampage" was just 17 when he shot a romantic rival in the thigh in July 2009, an assault to which he eventually pleaded guilty in York County Court. Less than a year later, he forced a six-hour standoff with police at his home, after which he was arrested, police have said.

Cristian "King Rampage" Mendez-Castro

In 2011, he led police on a chase while riding an allegedly stolen motorcycle and ended up crashing into a York City police cruiser. Officers arrested him and took him to York Hospital, where he managed to remove a handcuff from his left wrist and ran out of the hospital with the handcuff still on his right wrist, according to police, who captured him about two hours later at a city convenience store.

Hector "Fernando" Castro-Padro, 30, was sentenced to six years and four months for conspiracy to commit drug trafficking and firearms offenses, according to court records.

York City's police chief says another gang will be subject of federal probe

Other Operation Sunrise defendants eventually pleaded guilty in federal court to drug-trafficking offenses, including:

  • William Ortiz, 54, of York, sentenced to 10 years in prison
  • Luis Angel "C Lo" Ortiz, 32, of York, sentenced to 12½ years in prison
  • Jose "Warrior" Cartegena Jr., 36, of York, sentenced to five years in prison
  • Marcus "King Paradise" Garcia, 29, of York, sentenced to 65 months in prison
  • David "King Knuckles" Ramsey, 33, of York, sentenced to five years in prison
  • Carlos Villalongo-Martinez, 39, of York, sentenced to two years in prison
  • Brandon Jones, 28, of York, sentenced to six years in prison
  • Antonio "King Trigger" Navarro-Garcia, 23, of York, sentenced to five years in prison
  • Michael "King Rage" Enriquez, 31, of Camden, New Jersey, sentenced to 10 years in prison
  • Hector Rengifo, 41, of York, sentenced to 10 years in prison
  • August Ranalli, 32, of York, sentenced to 12 years in prison.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.