By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
FONDA -- Alleged drug kingpin David Canales of Amsterdam pleaded guilty before a jury trial started Tuesday.
Police say Canales, 34, of 83 Academy St., is the "first crown" of the city's division of the Latin Kings.
He was indicted in March and formally charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance, and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
District Attorney James E. "Jed" Conboy said Canales pleaded guilty to a single count of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance full satisfaction of the indictment. The plea came just before the trial was set to start. Jury selection took place Monday.
Conboy said the charge carries a maximum of nine years in prison. Canales will be sentenced in October.
On the evidence, Conboy said "it was obviously enough to have him plead guilty."
Canales was represented by Attorney William Roberts. Attempts to reach him Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Canales was one of more than a dozen people arrested by Amsterdam Police Department during a drug bust spread across five locations in the city in November 2012. He reportedly sold cocaine to "police sources" on two occasions in September last year.
The arrests were made after a five-month long investigation into drug and gang activity in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Police, the county Sheriff's Office and the Schenectady Police Department.
The National Gang Crime Research Center says Latin Kings is a predominantly Hispanic street gang originated in Chicago in the 1960s. Today, its influence stretches nationwide in "formal organizations with lengthy written constitutions, by-laws and elaborate ceremonies."
"That's why the FBI got involved with this investigation," APD Chief Greg Culick told The Recorder in March. "[Canales] was considered the first crown in Amsterdam, and he was basically supposed to report to the higher-ups in the Syracuse/Rochester region. He was responsible for keeping the gang in control, and following the rules and structure."
At the time, Det. Lt. Kurt Conroy said the department surveyed some of the group's meetings during its investigation, and ultimately confirmed there are 10 Latin King members in Amsterdam, with roughly 25 people loosely-tied to the organization.
"The bust seems to have put a crimp in that organization for sure," said Culick. "I think people are leery -- they know we know about them, they know we have the means to investigate them, and we're not going to drop the ball."