The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office announced Friday morning that it has indicted and arrested 12 members of the MLK gang in Lake Worth after a seven-month investigation, dubbed "Operation Vida Loca." The MLK gang, whose moniker stands for Makin' Life Krazy, has been terrorizing Lake Worth neighborhoods since at least 2003. PBSO's investigation was conducted in partnership with the PBC State Attorney's Office. The gang members will be charged with racketering and conspiracy to commit racketeering.
Several of the men charged in Friday's sweep have been previously arrested. In December of last year, a fight at a birthday party at 716 North D Street almost turned deadly when MLK members were attacked by a rival gang.
During the fight a 13-year-old girl, Samantha Zarate, was shot in the back by MLK member Jose Garcia while she was kneeling to comfort a boy who had been stabbed and beaten with a bat during the fight. The girl was a student at Lake Worth Middle School.
In 2004, 14-year-old MLK member Ricardo "Silent" Andres was gunned down as he stood smoking a cigarette in his driveway on F Street. Two other gangs, Crips and Sur 13, took credit in graffiti scrawled around the neighborhood (read the full New Times story here). The same Jose Garcia, then just 16, set up Silent's memorial MySpace page after the shooting. He lives at 309 South B Street. The attempted first degree murder charge against Garcia is included in Friday's racketeering indictment..
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At least two others of the 12 had also had run-ins with the law this year. Francisco "Lazie" Ramirez, now 20, of 207 North F Street, was arrested for burglary, possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, and violation of probation, among other charges.
Martin Martinez, 27, of 414 North B Street, was arrested in February for armed robbery and resisting an officer with violence.
No doubt residents of the gang's neighborhood and members of the Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association are sleeping a little easier this week.
Gang-related racketeering carries a life sentence. We'll update as info becomes available.