HAMMOND, Ind. (STMW) — U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano admitted the task before him Thursday was difficult.

He was sentencing Latin Kings leader Alexander Vargas, who had ordered two murders and been involved in drug trafficking, while taking into account his cooperation with the government, which aided in the conviction and guilty pleas of several other gang members.

“In my mind, you deserve the rest of your life in prison — or the death penalty,” Lozano said. “Reading this case was like reading a novel, a horror novel of all the bad things that occurred and the bad things human beings can do to each other.”

Vargas was an “Inca,” or regional leader, overseeing the south suburbs of Chicago and Northwest Indiana. He ordered multiple killings as retaliation when a Latin King member was killed. His brother, Jose Vargas, who was not in a gang, was gunned down by the Latin Dragons in 2006, so Vargas directed his vengeance toward that gang, including ordering the 2007 murders of Latin Dragons leaders Joe Walsh and Gonzalo Diaz as they left a Griffith restaurant.

In the end, Lozano sentenced Highland resident Vargas to 23 years in prison with five years of supervised release. Sentencing guidelines call for a mandatory life sentence for murder, but government attorneys recommended a lesser sentence for Vargas’ candid cooperation. Joseph Cooley, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, said Vargas’ testimony in the trial of Martin Anaya led in part to Anaya’s conviction.

Before his sentence was handed down, Vargas, 35, expressed remorse for his actions with the Latin Kings.

“I pray that (the families of the victims) can find it in their hearts to forgive me though I know it will be a long time,” Vargas said. “We both lost loved ones in this stupid gang war. I joined the Latin Kings when I was 12 years old, and it taught me nothing but evil.”

Vargas said he tried to get out of the gang twice, but he was threatened with harm both times. Vargas’ attorney, Todd Pugh, said his client lived a double life, as a father of five children, union bricklayer and Little League coach, while he was involved with the drugs and violence of the gang.

Vargas said he realizes his cooperation with the government puts a target on his back.

“My life will never be the same — in or out of jail,” Vargas said. “I am in solitary confinement for my own safety.”

Lozano urged Vargas to seek treatment for alcohol abuse and pursue his education while he is in prison.

“I want you out clean so you don’t have a monkey on your back and can come back to your family,” Lozano said.

Vargas was part of a more than 20 gang members who were indicted for their parts in multiple murders and drug trafficking. He pleaded guilty to racketeering, drug trafficking and murdering two people.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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