Four reputed members of a Northwest Side street gang have been indicted on federal racketeering conspiracy charges alleging they committed a string of deadly shootings — including the 2017 slaying of a 15-year-old boy — to intimidate rivals and promote their online status.
The five-count indictment unsealed Friday alleges Santo Lozoya, Hector Rojas, Jose Martinez and Pedro Navarro — all said to be members of the Milwaukee Kings gang — committed a combined three murders and two attempted murders between 2015 and 2017.
The charges were similar to two other cases brought in federal court last year against reputed leaders of violent factions of the Gangster Disciples on the South Side.
Unlike traditional racketeering cases that accuse gang members of using violence to protect drug turf or other illicit enterprises, the charges against the Milwaukee Kings, the Goonie Boss squad and the Evans Mobb allege the gangs’ members are conspiring to shoot people in order to boost their social media brand and terrorize neighborhoods.
Since the racketeering counts allege murder was part of the conspiracy, all four defendants in the Milwaukee Kings case could be eligible for the death penalty if convicted.
The indictment alleged that Navarro, who goes by the nickname “Cuba,” was the gunman who shot and killed 15-year-old Xavier Soto and wounded another teen in April 2017 behind Soto’s family home in the 4900 block of West George Street.
According to prosecutors, Navarro and another Milwaukee Kings member waited in a vehicle as Soto and two friends, alleged members of the rival Latin Brothers gang, walked down the alley. When the victims approached, Navarro jumped out of the vehicle and opened fire, striking Soto three times, including once in the head, prosecutors said. Soto, who went by the nickname “Rico,” died two days later.
A second victim was shot three times but survived. The third teen was not wounded.
Prosecutors revealed in a court filing Thursday that Navarro admitted to the slaying on a secret recording made two months later by a Milwaukee Kings member who was cooperating with the FBI. On the recording, Navarro said he had been trying to get rid of the gun.
“We killed a 15-year-old who was an LB,” Navarro allegedly said on the recording. “They came right in front of us. We flamed them the f— up. Shorty died.”
Chicago police had arrested Navarro about a week after the shooting when they pulled over his gold-colored Nissan Pathfinder and found him in possession of a loaded handgun, prosecutors said. Ballistics tests later matched the gun to the spent shell casings found at the scene of Soto’s slaying, according to prosecutors. Navarro’s Nissan also matched witness descriptions from the shooting scene.
Navarro was arrested by the FBI in Soto’s murder on April 30, records show. In a recorded interview with agents, he admitted to be a Milwaukee King but denied any role in the shooting, according to prosecutors.
In asking for Navarro to be held without bond, prosecutors said that during his initial appearance before a judge earlier this month, he was observed by an FBI agent passing the name of the confidential informant to his girlfriend.
The Chicago Tribune detailed in a front-page story last May how the gun used in Soto’s shooting was traced to a group of weapons traffickers who had bought the weapon in Kentucky a little more than a month earlier. The gun was bought off of Armslist.com, a controversial website that helps buyers and sellers of weapons find each other without requiring them to register, provide proof of identity or undergo background checks, according to prosecutors.
Navarro’s three co-defendants, meanwhile, were already in custody facing murder charges brought in Cook County when the federal indictment was filed under seal on April 25.
Records show Lozoya, 21, known on the street as “Saint,” and Martinez, 25, who goes by the nickname “Ghost,” were each charged in 2017 with the December 2016 slaying of Crispin Coliz, who was on his way home from a Chicago Bulls game.
Court records show prosecutors dismissed the Cook County charges last week.
The fourth defendant in the racketeering indictment, Rojas, 26, was accused in the September 2015 slaying of 19-year-old Daniel Guerra in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. Records show Guerra was shot in the neck and chest by a gunman who opened fire after a quarrel on the street. A 23-year-old man was shot in the back and a 22-year-old was wounded in the hand.
Rojas was charged with first-degree murder in Guerra’s shooting in 2016 and has been held without bail at the Cook County Jail. Those charges were still pending as of Friday, court records show.
Lozoya, Martinez and Rojas all entered pleas of not guilty to the federal charges during an appearance Thursday before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly, court records show. Navarro waived his right to a detention hearing during the same appearance and will be arraigned before Kennelly at a later date.
Chicago Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner contributed.
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