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NJ: State Prison ‘Hit Squad’ Run By Latin King Targeted Inmates, Corrections Investigators

Frank “Lafay” Blake
Frank “Lafay” Blake Photo Credit: INSET: NJ Dept. of Corrections / Googlemaps

Members of a state prison hit squad assembled by a Latin Kings leader beat one fellow inmate and were about to attack another when corrections officials got wind of their plans, New Jersey's top law enforcement officer said Thursday.

Working from the outside, Frank “Lafay” Blake, 33, of Hillside recruited eight inmates for his shank-armed crew at various correctional facilities, including Northern State Prison in Newark and New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.

Blake, the reputed leader of the Elizabeth chapter of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN) street gang, even discussed attacking correctional investigators at their homes, Grewal said.

One victim suffered a brain injury when he was brutally beaten by fellow inmates Roberto “Taz” Garcia, 25, of Carteret and Eduardo “King Big Bay” Lago, of Newark in the prison yard of New Jersey State Prison in Trenton last September, the attorney general said.

They did so at the direction of Blake via inmates William “King Stitch” Figueroa, 27, of Hightstown, and Andy “Chango” Reyes, 25, of Somerset, he said.

Blake also directed ALKQN members Alexander “D Noble” Chludzinski, 27, of Phillipsburg, Kevin “King Jafi” Washington, 32, of Atlantic City, James “King Samurai” Zarate, 33, of Randolph, and Larry “King Legend” Cardona, 28, of Elizabeth, to assault another inmate at Northern State Prison in Newark, Grewal said.

Investigators with the Corrections Department’s Special Investigations Division “learned of the alleged plot and placed the targeted inmate in protective custody,” he said.

Blake and Chludzinski also “discussed going to the homes of DOC-SID investigators [who were] leading this investigation to commit violence against them,” Grewal said.

Investigators arrested Blake at his home last week while seizing a .45-caliber pistol, a .357-caliber revolver loaded with hollow-point bullets, a 9mm pistol, an illegal large-capacity magazine and additional rounds including hollow-points, the attorney general said.

“Gang violence is always a danger in our state prisons,” Grewal said, but this particular group “posed a special threat to the safety and security of inmates and correctional police officers....I commend the DOC Special Investigations Division and OPIA for their outstanding work to neutralize this threat and bring these [defendants] to justice.”

All of the defendants, except for Cardona, are charged with gang criminality and conspiracy.

Blake also is charged with promoting organized street crime.

He, Figueroa, Reyes, Lago, and Garcia are also charged with aggravated assault in the beating of the inmate.

Blake, Chludzinski, Washington, Reyes, Zarate, and Cardona are charged with attempted aggravated assault for the thwarted attack at Northern State Prison.

In addition, Blake and Chludzinski are charged with hindering prosecution, making terroristic threats and obstruction.

Cardona, Chludzinski, Reyes, and Zarate are also charged with possessing shanks, and Cardona is charged with possessing a cell phone in prison.

Blake also is charged with various weapons and ammo counts, including being a convicted felon in possession of both, along with drug offenses for having meth and two digital scales, Grewal said.

The charges were filed by Grewal's Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) following the investigation by the DOC Special Investigations Division (SID) and OPIA Corruption Central Squad.

Deputy Attorney General Colin Keiffer is prosecuting the case for the state. Assisting are Deputy Attorney General Heather Hausleben and other members of the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau, the AG said.

Grewal thanked all of the investigators and detectives involved while not identifying them for security reasons.

He also cited the New Jersey State Police TEAMS North Unit, Division of Criminal Justice Cyber Crimes Unit, Union County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Division and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office Intelligence Unit for their assistance.

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