Arthur Lopez Jr., is especially brazen — even for a fugitive.
Lopez — the only alleged member of a notorious family drug ring in Milwaukee who is still being sought by federal authorities — is wanted for his role in three 1999 drug-related slayings, including the brutal murder of Carlos "Hollywood" Hernandez, a member of the Latin Kings who claimed to have quit the gang to become a community activist.
Rather than continue to lie low seven years after the shootings, Lopez called investigators in January 2006 from a pay phone in Hartford, Conn., and taunted a deputy U.S. marshal following a news report about him.
"You think you can catch me? You think you can arrest me? Hey, Doug! I'm on the ready," Lopez said during a muffled voicemail to Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Doug Bachert.
The voicemail, which runs less than 10 seconds, was apparently recorded using a phone held up to another phone so authorities could not trace it with any degree of accuracy, Bachert told FOXNews.com.
Investigators believe Lopez, now 27, is avoiding arrest with assistance from female relatives who haven't been jailed in connection to the family’s drug ring, which is believed to have flooded south Milwaukee with hundreds of kilos of cocaine and thousands of pounds of marijuana from 1994 to 1999.
“The family is definitely protecting him, financially,” Bachert told FOXNews.com. “How they communicate with him is unknown to us, but somehow they’re getting it done, unfortunately.”
Along with his father, Arturo Lopez Sr., and uncle Julian “Big Dog” Lopez, the alleged leader of the ring, Lopez ran the family drug-trafficking enterprise using acts of intimidation and deadly violence. Authorities believe the ring is responsible for multiple drive-by shootings and at least six homicides.
As a primary force in the drug organization, FBI officials believe Lopez was responsible for locating the group’s drug sources, determining prices and sometimes acting as a ruthless enforcer.
Following a bloody turf battle between the Lopez ring and the Latin Kings for a stretch of 10th Street in south Milwaukee in December 1999, law enforcement agents executed one of the largest search warrants in the city’s history.
Along with 10 other family members and associates, authorities ultimately arrested Lopez’s father and uncle on federal drug conspiracy charges. They pleaded guilty. Lopez Sr. was sentenced to life in prison without parole; his uncle, "Big Dog," got three life terms for two murders.
But a month prior to the raid, “Junior,” as he was known on the streets, simply disappeared.
“We know he went to Mexico, but we’re not sure he has or hasn’t come back,” Bachert said. “At this point, it’s unknown.”
Lopez was charged in March 2001 for allegedly driving the getaway car for drug associate Luis Acevedo on Aug. 11, 1999, when Acevedo fatally shot Maximillano Castillo Jr., 19, and 15-year-old Vanessa Rivas during a 40-bullet drive-by shooting.
Acevedo, then 20, confessed to shooting Castillo as part of a longstanding drug feud. Rivas, a bystander, was killed by a stray bullet.
Lopez was also charged in the February 1999 slaying of "Hollywood" Hernandez, a 32-year-old outreach worker at the nearby Social Development Commission (SDC). Hernandez’s slaying was particularly divisive to the south Milwaukee neighborhood because he was seen as a reformed member of the Latin Kings. But authorities would later learn that "Hollywood" had apparently continued to run the Latin Kings’ drug operation.
A Lopez family member who became a prosecution witness, Ernesto Lopez Jr., reportedly told police that Hernandez opposed the Lopez family’s intention to take over a portion of the narcotics market controlled by the Latin Kings.
Seen as an obstacle to the family’s dominance of the local drug trade, Hernandez was gunned down as he arrived for work at an SDC office. According to court documents, Lopez, clad in a ski mask, shot Hernandez while riding a bicycle after receiving a two-way radio message sent from an associate: “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”
Lopez, who has several aliases, including Carlos Serrano and Arturo Lopes, was last spotted in 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico. He may been employed as a truck driver, but authorities believe he continues to support himself by distributing drugs. In addition to ties to Milwaukee, Lopez also has connections to the Nuevo Leon area of northern Mexico, as well as Hartford, Conn., where authorities believe he made that daring phone call to Bachert nearly three years ago.
Lopez is described as 5-feet, 5-inches tall, weighing up to 170 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. He has at least two tattoos: “Jr” on his upper left arm and “AL” on his upper right arm.
“Junior” should be considered armed and extremely dangerous, according to Bachert, who continues to probe Lopez’s family for indications to his whereabouts. But without a break in the case, authorities will have a difficult time apprehending Lopez.
“It’s wide open,” Bachert said. “We just don’t know where he is right now.”