Alexander "Pacman" Vargas had a starring role in the video that helped put him away. The Latin King gangster was sentenced Thursday to 23 years in prison, and investigators who brought the case against him said undercover video played a significant role in this gang leader's conviction.
ATF and DEA undercover surveillance video from 2005, played at the trial, shows Vargas and fellow Latin King Sisto Bernal meeting with other Latin Kings during a visit to Texas. The two were apparently in Texas to discuss how operations in Chicago worked, and trading tips on how to spot snitches, according to the Chicago Crime Commission's analysis of the video.
"He was telling them watch out for this; this is what happens," said Joseph C. Ways of the Chicago Crime Commission. "These are the tell-tale signs of somebody who's been flipped and who's working with law enforcement,"
Vargas and others were originally indicted by federal prosecutors in late 2011 as part of a sweeping, detailed indictment alleging years of crimes, including murders, drug deals and burglaries, committed by 21 members of the Latin Kings. He had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering activity, one count of narcotics conspiracy, two counts of murder in aid of racketeering and two counts of murder resulting from the use of a firearm in relation to crimes of violence and drug trafficking, and faced a possible life behind bars. But the judge agreed with the government's request for a shorter sentence due to his cooperation.
Bernal was sentenced to prison in August on racketeering and drug charges.
Authorities in Chicago and northwest Indiana combined efforts to take approximately 40 gang members off the streets during the sting that caught up Vargas and others. US Attorney David Capp attributed a drastic drop in crime in northwest Indiana to the arrests.
Despite Vargas's criminal activities, that he lived a quiet life in suburban northwest Indiana, according to prosecutors. Vargas was known to have attended his children's Little League games near his home in Highland, according to the US Attorney's Office in NW Indiana.
"They blend in to their surroundings," Ways said. "Hide in plain sight is one way of saying it."