Twelve members of the Bethlehem, Pa., chapter of the Latin Kings gang were charged Wednesday with racketeering and murder, U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger announced.

Indictments also were filed against 23 members and associates of the Latin Kings for drug and firearms offenses.

The superseding indictment alleges that Neftali "King Nefti" Colon and Oscar "King Flip" Hernandez fatally shot Eugene Martinez in a Bethlehem park in 2004. Martinez allegedly had disrespected and assaulted Colon and another member of the Latin Kings.

The indictment also describes a series of violent episodes that included a trip to Vineland, N.J., by the Latin Kings in Bethlehem to help murder, on orders from the Philadelphia chapter, members of the New Jersey Latin Kings. The plan failed, prosecutors said.

The case offers fascinating details about the structure and operations of the Latin Kings, officially called the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. Headquartered in Chicago, it is the largest Hispanic street gang in the United States, with reported roots dating to the 1940s.

According to the indictment, the Bethlehem chapter is known as the Bethlehem Sun Tribe. The Pennsylvania chapters were organized in 2001 by Joseph "Smiley" Wallenberg, who was sent by headquarters to expand the Latin Kings' territory.

The first leader of the Bethlehem Sun Tribe, authorities said, was Luis "King Respect" Colon, who had the title of First Crown, also known as Inca. Colon is charged in the superseding indictment.

Members of the Latin Kings are required to memorize its rules, prayers, codes of behavior, and rituals as described in a written manifesto, the indictment says.

Member dues help fund the gang's legal and illegal activities, according to the indictment.

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or