The United States Attorney's Office for Massachusetts has brought federal racketeering charges against more than 60 individuals alleged to be members of the Almighty Latin Kings and Queen Nation, a criminal gang known more widely as the Latin Kings.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling announced the charges at a press conference Thursday, flanked by federal law enforcement officials and speaking from behind a display of firearms seized that morning in a raid resulting in nearly 50 arrests.

The individuals were arrested on federal racketeering, or RICO, charges. Under RICO statues, federal prosecutors can include other crimes usually charged at the state level, including murder, attempted murder and other crimes, as part of the alleged criminal conspiracy.

"We were able to take out nearly all of the leadership" of the gang in Thursday's raid, Lelling said.

Lelling said that a four-year-long investigation led by the FBI's Boston division found that members of the Latin Kings' Eastern Region have engaged in drug dealing, murder, intimidation, terror and other acts of violence across Massachusetts and other states. He cited the gang's growing presence in New Bedford, Mass., as especially pernicious.

Most of those arrested are residents of Massachusetts, Lelling said.

Lelling described the raid as the culmination of a significant effort, spanning several states and utilizing wiretapped phone calls and other surveillance techniques.

According to documents released by the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Latin Kings has grown from its origins in Chicago to a major criminal enterprise with a significant presence on the Eastern seaboard, encompassing chapters in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and other Eastern states.

The federal charges name 40-year-old Michael Cecchetelli of Springfield, also known as "King Merlin," as the leader of the gang's Eastern Region. Cecchetelli was among those arrested early Thursday.

Joseph Bonavolonta, Special Agent In Charge of the FBI's Boston division, said Cecchetelli oversaw a complex criminal enterprise organized "like the Cosa Nostra," or Italian mob.

"Until 14 hours ago," Bonavolonta said, Cecchetelli "presided over a criminal enterprise spanning 14 states, from Massachusetts to Florida."

Via wiretaps, Bonavolonta said, agents infiltrated the organization "secretly recording chapter, state and East Coast-level meetings. Time after time, we uncovered their planning of brazen acts of violence."

Bonavolonta said the FBI found evidence that the gang had executed an 18-year-old man 10 years ago and had planned to kill at least eight people in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Florida. He also said that gang members serving time in Massachusetts state prisons had continued to commit crimes via outside contacts while incarcerated.

He said the FBI was assisted by Massachusetts State Police, Boston Police and that some 650 law enforcement officers were deployed in Thursday's arrests, which he called "the biggest takedown in Boston FBI division's history."

Lelling said law enforcement officials are pursuing open warrants against eight individuals who weren't arrested, and that some 30 search warrants were being executed as he spoke.