Augustin Zambrano used murder and other violence to protect his drug-selling operation as head of the Chicago-based Latin Kings gang, authorities say.
CHICAGO — The national leader of the 35,000-member Latin Kings gang was sentenced Wednesday to the maximum 60 years in federal prison for racketeering, conspiracy and other charges involving violent drug trafficking.
Augustin Zambrano, 51, must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence because of an extensive criminal history that includes coordinating "a savage code of violence" that led to numerous murders, beatings and other violence, said Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
"As the CEO of this gang, Zambrano bears responsibility for its criminal acts," Fitzgerald said in a statement.
NBC station WMAQ of Chicago reported that Zambrano, who was arrested in 2009 and convicted last April, is the biggest catch from the Latin Kings since Gino Colon, the previous "corona," or top leader, was sentenced to life in prison in 2000.
Founded in Chicago in the 1940s and formally known as the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, the gang has 35,000 members nationwide, authorities said, about a third of them in Illinois.
Augustin and three co-defendants were convicted in April after a nationwide investigation that culminated in their arrests in 2009. Jose Guzman, described as an "enforcer" in Chicago, was sentenced last month to 35 years in prison. The two other co-defendants — Vicente Garcia, described as the head of the 10,000 Latin Kings in Illinois, and Alphonso Chavez, the leader of one of its Chicago factions — await sentencing.
Evidence presented at trial included audio and video recordings of three beatings of gang members for violating gang rules and testimony describing 20 shootings in the Little Village area of Chicago alone.
Zambrano "did not carry out any of this violence by himself," Fitzgerald said. As corona, "he was insulated. He was behind the scenes. He entrusted others to do it. He put leaders in place who shared his vision ... to see to it that the Latin Kings acted barbarically."
More content from msnbc.com and NBC News: