HAMMOND, Ind. - A federal judge in northwestern Indiana sentenced a former Latin Kings street gang leader to 23 years in prison Thursday after he pleaded guilty to murder, racketeering and cocaine distribution charges.
U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano also sentenced Alexander Vargas, 35, of Highland, to five years of supervised release after Vargas completes his prison term.
Lozano said he had a difficult time balancing the allegations against Vargas with his cooperation with prosecutors that helped win convictions against other gang members.
"In my mind, you deserve the rest of your life in prison or the death penalty," Lozano said. "Reading this case was like reading a novel, a horror novel of all the bad things that occurred and the bad things human beings can do to each other."
Prosecutors said Vargas was an "Inca," or regional Latin Kings leader, overseeing northwestern Indiana and Chicago's south suburbs, and ordered multiple killings in retaliation when a gang member was killed, The Post-Tribune and The (Munster) Times reported.
Vargas expressed remorse for his actions.
"I pray that (the families of the victims) can find it in their hearts to forgive me though I know it will be a long time," Vargas said. "We both lost loved ones in this stupid gang war. I joined the Latin Kings when I was 12 years old, and it taught me nothing but evil."
He also said his cooperation with prosecutors had placed a target on his back.
"My life will never be the same -- in or out of jail," Vargas said. "I am in solitary confinement for my own safety."
Vargas was among more than 20 gang members who were indicted for their parts in multiple slayings and drug trafficking.