He was the ruling “Inca” of the Latin Kings’ Cicero crew — a man so wedded to violence that he oversaw the brutal, videotaped punishment beating of a gang member who failed to commit a murder.
But nearly eight years after his arrest, Nedal “Lucky” Issa on Monday thanked the feds for catching him.
“Thank you for giving me a second chance at life,” an emotional Issa told prosecutors as he was sentenced to 16 years behind bars by U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle.
“If this case hadn’t been filed, I could have been dead.”
Convicted of racketeering and armed assault, Issa, 37, had faced a potential sentence of 30 years to life for his role near the top of one of the Chicago area’s deadliest gangs.
But by turning against his former pals and providing evidence that helped convict 25 other high-ranking Latin Kings, including national gang leader, “Corona” Augustin Zambrano, he effectively halved his prison term.
Norgle said Issa’s cooperation with the government was “exceptional” because he had testified despite the “risk to him and his family” from a gang known to target witnesses.
Wearing a white, pinstriped shirt, close-cropped hair and glasses, Issa looked more like a middle-aged store clerk than a gang leader during the half-hour hearing.
He has been in the witness protection program behind bars since his 2006 arrest and sobbed Monday that he has been disowned by much of his family since he turned against the Latin Kings.
“I put my whole family at risk” the father of two cried.
Video footage of about 15 gang members under Issa’s control — which shows them beating a fellow Latin King nicknamed “Chongo” as punishment for failing to shoot a rival gang member — formed the centerpiece of the trial of four other senior Latin Kings in 2011.
Zambrano, 26th Street “enforcer” Vicente Garcia, Alphonso Chavez and Jose Guzman were all convicted after Issa testified that he organized the vicious 2-minute beating of the victim “Chongo” at Garcia’s orders.
A camera hidden in a west suburban basement by the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco captured the beating, during which Issa can be heard shouting “Don’t stop!”
Issa himself had previously suffered a similar beating for failing to enforce the shooting. Another member of his Cicero crew eventually carried out the shooting, evidence showed.
A plea deal that Issa previously entered with prosecutors required him to cooperate in return for a reduced sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Porter said Issa had “lived up to that and then some,” saying he could “happily” recommend a sentence of 17 years.
In handing Issa a 16-year term, Norgle went below even that.
Calling the feds’ takedown of the Latin Kings leadership in 2011 “a major accomplishment,” Norgle praised Issa for taking self-improvement classes in prison, adding: “He’s not the same person he was seven years ago when he first came before the court.”
The sentence he imposed means that with good behavior, Issa will be eligible for release in 2020.
Another high-ranking Latin King, former Little Village “enforcer” Juan Amaya, faces a far longer sentence of up to life in prison when he is sentenced in a separate case on Friday.
Unlike Issa, Amaya has not cooperated and should serve 40 years, the feds say.