A New Bedford man who was a regional officer for the Massachusetts Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation pleaded guilty Thursday to racketeering charges after admitting in court to his part in several instances of gang-related violence.

Michael Cotto, known as “King Gordo,” 26, once a member of the New Bedford Chapter of the Latin Kings, admitted to participating in the gang's illegal drug business and to committing a variety of violent acts. One such act was a February 2018 beating, known as a “termination,” of an associate suspected of cooperating with law enforcement. The victim was found by New Bedford Police bleeding from his injuries and transported to the hospital, according to a news release from the Office of U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.

Cotto also admitted to his part in the August 2018 "termination" of a leader of the Fitchburg Chapter who was suspected of being an informant. On intercepted phone calls, Cotto discussed an elaborate ruse to trick this leader into attending a meeting at which he would be ambushed and beaten by other Latin Kings members.

In December 2018, a surveillance video depicted Cotto participating in a group assault of another individual. Cotto can be observed striking the victim with a baseball bat, Lelling's office said.

Cotto pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy. U.S. Senior District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel scheduled sentencing for April 28.

In December 2019, a federal grand jury returned an indictment alleging racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy and firearms charges against 62 leaders, members and associates of the Latin Kings. Cotto is the 30th defendant to plead guilty in the case, known as Operation Throne Down.

The RICO conspiracy charge provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Latin Kings are a violent criminal enterprise comprised of thousands of members across the United States, the U.S. Department of Justice says. The Latin Kings adhere to a national manifesto, employ an internal judiciary and use a sophisticated system of communication to maintain the hierarchy of the organization. As alleged in court documents, the gang uses drug distribution to generate revenue and engages in violence against witnesses and rival gangs to further its influence and to protect its turf.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Commissioner Carol Mici of the Massachusetts Department of Correction; and New Bedford Police Chief Joseph C. Cordeiro made the announcement today. Assistance was provided by the FBI North Shore Gang Task Force and the Bristol County and Suffolk County District Attorney’s Offices.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip A. Mallard and Lauren Graber of Lelling’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

The operation was conducted by a multi-agency task force through the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

WBSM-AM/AM 1420 logo
Enter your number to get our free mobile app

More From WBSM-AM/AM 1420