The Chicago Syndicate: MS-13

Showing posts with label MS-13. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MS-13. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

3 #MS13 Members Plead Guilty in Savage Death of Teen Girl in Gangland Revenge Killing

Three MS-13 affiliates pleaded guilty to their roles in the savage death of a teenage Virginia girl in what prosecutors say was a gangland-style revenge killing.

As part of a deal with prosecutors, Cindy Blanco Hernandez, 19, Aldair J. Miranda Carcamo, 18, and Emerson Fugon Lopez, 17, pleaded guilty to a host of charges that included abduction and in two instances, gang participation. The three will be key witnesses in the trials of three other gang members charged with directly killing 15-year-old Damaris A. Reyes Rivas.

The January killing of Reyes Rivas, which ultimately resulted in the arrest of 18 young people, galvanized the country and highlighted the brutal nature of one of the nation’s most violent and powerful street gangs.

According to the prosecution, Reyes Rivas was taken to a Virginia park, where she was stabbed with a knife and jabbed with a stick by a large group of MS-13 members. Her body eventually was discovered after it was dumped under a highway overpass on the outskirts of Washington, DC.

FBI agent Fernando Uribe testified in July that Jose Cerrato, a 17-year-old alleged gang member, filmed and narrated the killing on a cellphone with the intention of sending the footage to MS-13 leaders in El Salvador. It’s unclear if the video was ever sent to El Salvador, but Uribe testified that Cerrato was promoted in the gang for his role in the murder, the Washington Post reported.

Reyes Rivas allegedly was killed as revenge for the death of 21-year-old Christian Sosa Rivas. Sosa Rivas was killed around New Year’s Eve after he purportedly was lured to a local park by Reyes Rivas. Some of the eight people charged in connection with his death are believed to have thought Sosa Rivas was a member of a rival gang who was claiming to be an MS-13 member, and the defendants’ purpose was “gaining entrance to and maintaining and increasing position in MS-13 according to the Justice Department.”

Reyes Rivas’ killing was uncovered when investigators found the videos of her killing while looking into Sosa Rivas’ death.

According to testimony by Uribe, 17-year-old Venus Romero Iraheta, an alleged MS-13 cohort and girlfriend of Sosa Rivas, blamed Reyes Rivas for luring Sosa Rivas to his death before stabbing her in the neck with a knife 13 times.

Wilmer A. Sanchez Serrano, 21, another MS-13 affiliate, is accused of stabbing Reyes Rivas in the neck with a sharpened stick.

MS-13, which has become a major focus of President Trump’s Justice Department, was founded more than two decades ago in Southern California by immigrants fleeing El Salvador’s civil war. Its founders took lessons learned from the brutal conflict to the streets of Los Angeles, and built a reputation as one of the most ruthless and sophisticated street gangs in the country.

With as many as 10,000 members in 46 states, the gang has expanded beyond its initial and local roots and members have been convicted of crimes ranging from kidnapping and murder to drug smuggling and human trafficking, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jason Shatarsky told the Associated Press.

The gang now has a large presence in Southern California, Washington, DC, and many rural areas on the East Coast with substantial Salvadoran populations like the Carolinas. And in any community where the gang operates, its members often prey on their own people, targeting residents and business owners for extortion, among other crimes.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

#MS13 Member Sentenced to Prison and Deportation for Assaulting 18th Street Gang Members

A member of MS-13’s Enfermos Criminales Salvatrucha clique in Chelsea was sentenced in federal court in Boston for RICO conspiracy involving the assault of two rival gang members.

Kevin Ayala, a/k/a “Gallito,” 23, a Salvadoran national residing in Chelsea, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor to 42 months in prison and will be subject to deportation after completion of his sentence. In February 2017, Ayala pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as a RICO conspiracy.

Ayala was identified as a member of MS-13’s Enfermos Criminales Salvatrucha clique operating in Chelsea. Ayala admitted that in April 2014, he engaged in an aggravated assault upon two members of the rival 18th Street gang in Chelsea.

After a three-year, multi-agency investigation, Ayala was one of 61 individuals charged in a superseding indictment targeting the criminal activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 in Massachusetts. In documents previously filed with the Court, MS-13 was identified as a violent transnational criminal organization whose branches or “cliques” operate throughout the United States, including Massachusetts, as well as in Central America. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the group, such as attacking and murdering gang rivals and individuals believed to be cooperating with law enforcement.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The @realDonaldTrump to Liberate our Towns and Destroy the Murderous MS-13 Gang Animals

President Trump sounded the alarm Friday over the violence being inflicted on American neighborhoods by MS-13, vowing to “liberate our towns” from the murderous gang's grip as part of an escalating crackdown by his administration.

The defeat of the latest ObamaCare repeal bill in his rear-view, Trump traveled to Long Island to talk about the gang's atrocities and rally support for his immigration enforcement policies.

“[MS-13 has] transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into blood stained killing fields. They’re animals. We cannot tolerate as a society the spilling of innocent, young, wonderful vibrant people,” Trump said.

The president spoke in plain language to describe the brutality of MS-13 gang members, who have murdered 17 people in Long Island since Jan. 16. The gang, which has Central American ties, is also active in the Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles areas.

"We cannot accept this violence one day more," Trump said.

As he did throughout the 2016 political campaign, Trump also railed against timid politicians who have failed to enforce immigration laws and looked the other way as violent gangs crossed the border. “They are there right now because of weak political leadership ... and in many cases police who are not allowed to do their job because they have a pathetic mayor or a mayor who does not know what’s going on,” Trump said.

After noting the gang members prefer knives over guns because victims experience more suffering, Trump delivered a message to members. “We will find you, we will arrest you, we will jail you and we will deport you,” Trump said to applause from the audience of law enforcement officials. He vowed to "destroy the vile criminal cartel, MS-13, and many other gangs."

The visit came after the Senate early Friday morning narrowly defeated the latest ObamaCare replacement bill, in a blow to one of Trump's top campaign promises. But the president brushed off the loss and called on Congress to meet his spending demands to hire as many as 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and 5,000 new Customs and Border Patrol officers.

The administration also is pushing to boosting funding for more administrative law judges and to begin building the border wall.

The House this week voted to allocate $1.6 billion for a border wall.

Trump’s speech coincided with an announcement on Friday that two MS-13 gang members had been arrested in connection with the May murder of a man in Queens.

In June, New York State and federal law enforcement officials disclosed that as part of Operation Matador -- a joint federal-state initiative -- a total of 45 individuals with confirmed gang affiliations were arrested, including 39 affiliated with MS-13.

With Trump in MS-13’s domestic epicenter, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was delivering the administration’s message in El Salvador, where the violent gang is rooted.

“MS-13 is based here in El Salvador, but its tentacles reach across Central America, Europe, and through 40 U.S. states, and to within yards of the U.S. Capitol,” he said in remarks to graduates of the International Law Enforcement Academy.

The administration has taken an aggressive approach toward combating gangs, including establishing a Department of Justice Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety in February. A month later, Sessions issued a memo to all federal prosecutors placing a priority on prosecuting violent criminals.

Sessions was in the country to highlight joint efforts that have contributed to the arrest of 113 suspected MS-13 gang members. According to the Justice Department, an additional 593 gang members were charged Thursday, including many MS-13 members.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Immigration Arrests 39 Members of MS-13 Gang

Thirty-nine members of MS-13, a brutal gang with roots in Central America, were arrested by the immigration authorities in New York in the past month, officials said on Wednesday.

Many of those arrested were on Long Island in Suffolk County, where the authorities have attributed 17 murders to MS-13 since Jan. 1, 2016. In the most recent, four young men were found dead in Central Islip in April.

The arrests came as part of an effort to eradicate gangs that operate across international borders. Called Operation Matador, it includes agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and affiliated Homeland Security investigators, as well as local law enforcement. In addition to the 39 members of MS-13, six members of other violent gangs, such as the Latin Kings and the Sureños, were arrested, officials said. According to the immigration agency, people are considered confirmed gang members if they admit membership or have tattoos of gang symbols, among other factors.

“These individuals are members of a violent street gang actively wreaking havoc in the community,” Thomas R. Decker, ICE’s New York field office director for enforcement and removal operations, said in a news release about the arrests. “This unified effort is about keeping New York citizens safe.”

Most of those arrested come from El Salvador and Honduras. Five others are from Mexico, and two are from Guatemala, according to the immigration authorities. Twenty had criminal histories, ranging from misdemeanors like disorderly conduct to felony assault and weapons charges.

Twelve had originally crossed into America as unaccompanied minors, according to the release. Three others entered the country via a federal initiative called the Special Immigrant Juvenile program, which is designed to help abused or neglected children find safe haven in the United States.

MS-13, also known as La Mara Salvatrucha, was started in the 1980s in Los Angeles by refugees from El Salvador but has grown into a transnational organization.

After the four bodies were found in Central Islip, the problem emerged as a federal priority, attracting the attention of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He visited Long Island in April and spoke with local law enforcement officials, vowing to eradicate the gang by cracking down on illegal immigration.

“There are times when we know someone is an MS-13 gang member, and we know someone is an active MS-13 gang member, but we’re not in a position to make a criminal arrest,” Timothy Sini, the Suffolk County police commissioner, said in an interview. “So another tool in our toolbox is to work with the Department of Homeland Security to target active known MS-13 gang members for violation of civil immigration laws, which is another way to remove dangerous individuals from our streets.”

The arrested men face a variety of consequences. Some had re-entered the country after having been deported once, which is a federal crime, and will face prosecution. Deportation proceedings will begin for some of those not facing criminal charges.

Jorge Tigre, 18, was one of the young men found dead in April, murdered in a manner “consistent with the modus operandi of MS-13,” Mr. Sini said at the time.

Mr. Tigre’s brother William Tigre, originally from Ecuador, said on Wednesday that the arrests would not make a difference. “My brother’s not here anymore,” he said. “If they catch them, you know, that’s not going to solve the problem.”

There are just too many MS-13 members, Mr. Tigre said.

“Nothing’s going to change,” he said.

Thanks to Sarah Maslin Nir and Arielle Dollinger.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Is @RealDonaldTrump's Claim that @BarackObama is Responsible for Growth of MS-13 Gang True? Facts Say No

President Donald Trump blamed former President Barack Obama on Twitter for the formation of one of the most notorious gangs.

"The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!" Trump tweeted April 18.

Trump’s tweet came days after four young men were found brutally murdered in Central Islip in Long Island. The Suffolk County police commissioner said he suspects the MS-13 involvement. But the president’s post about the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13 gang, is misleading.

The gang was established in Los Angeles and spread across the country decades before Obama took office.

Trump’s administration has conducted target operations to arrest criminals, but data is not yet available on how many MS-13 gang members have been arrested or removed.

Ioan Grillo, author of the 2016 book Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America, disputed Trump’s conclusion. "I have seen no evidence that the Obama administration can can be blamed in any way for the existence or activities of the gang in the U.S.," Grillo told PolitiFact.

We asked a Trump spokesman for more information but did not hear back by deadline.

MS-13 history and growth predates Obama policy

Violent gangs, including MS-13, were forming in U.S. cities long before Obama’s presidency.

MS-13 grew out of poor Los Angeles neighborhoods where many refugees from civil wars in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua lived in the 1980s. (The name Mara Salvatrucha comes from the word "mara" which is a term for gang, "salva" for El Salvador and "trucha," which is slang for clever.) It later spread to other parts of the United States and in Central American nations.

By the end of the 1990s, the United States government recognized that MS-13 posed a significant criminal threat. Amid an immigration crackdown toward the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the government launched an effort to deport foreign-born residents convicted of crimes, including gang members.

In the mid 2000s, U.S. agencies including the FBI and ICE launched initiatives to combat the growth of gangs. There were several news reports about MS-13’s proliferation in the United States during the 2000s, with interest growing after a 2006 National Geographic documentary on the "World’s Most Dangerous Gang." The documentary showed that by the end of the 1990s, the gang had groups in almost every state.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed MS-13 on the same day as Trump’s tweet, blaming "an open border and years of lax immigration enforcement" for MS-13 recruitment.

Multiple experts said there is no evidence that Obama policies caused the growth of Latino gangs in the United States. "The big surge was during Bush-Cheney when the drivers of illegal migration in Central America grew, when various crackdowns on crime-filled prisons to bursting point, and when funding for rehabilitation programs declined," said Fulton T. Armstrong, a research fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University. Armstrong formerly worked as a national intelligence officer for Latin America, chief of staff of the CIA’s crime and narcotics center, and was a career CIA officer.

The growth of MS-13 in the United States is related to draconian domestic policies in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) that have pushed many gang members out of Central America, said Florida International University professor Jose Miguel Cruz.

Héctor Silva Ávalos, a research fellow at American University, said that there has been a new peak in gang activities on the East Coast since 2014 -- especially in Long Island and Montgomery County, Md. "But this has to do with gang dynamics that have been brewing back in Central America since the Mauricio Funes administration in El Salvador (2009-14) brokered a truce with both MS-13 and Barrio 18," he said. "It is not related to U.S. internal policy."

Elana Zilberg, a University of California San Diego communications professor, said Obama specifically targeted "criminal" aliens (including MS-13 members) in his aggressive deportation program.

"However, Trump’s tweet might be a blunt allusion to Obama’s position on unaccompanied minors from Central America," she said. "That, however, was a policy inherited from the Bush administration."

The number of Central American children coming alone began to increase in fiscal year 2012 and rose significantly in 2014.

The Obama administration in 2014 announced a series of new programs and partnerships with Central American countries to address the issues driving their migration. The Central American Minors program allowed certain parents with lawful presence in the United States to petition for their children in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to come in as refugees. Children ineligible for admission as refugees but at risk of harm could be admitted under parole. The program was expanded in 2016 to allow additional family members to apply.

No data on MS-13 removals under Trump

Trump lauded his administration’s enforcement efforts in a Fox News interview that aired shortly after his tweet. "We’ve gotten tremendous criminals out of this country," Trump said on Fox & Friends. "I'm talking about illegal immigrants that were here that caused tremendous crime that have murdered people, raped people, horrible things have happened. They are getting the hell out, or they are going to prison."

Trump claimed nothing had been done to remove criminals until he came along. (Here is an overview of some targeted enforcement operations during the Obama administration that led to the arrests of criminals and gang members.)

"It is a serious problem and we never did anything about it, and now we're doing something about it," Trump said. But ICE data available so far do not prove that Trump is removing MS-13 members "fast" as he tweeted.

In February, the Trump administration said it had conducted targeted operations resulting in the arrest of more than 680 people, including gang members. At least one of them was a self-admitted MS-13 gang member from El Salvador.

A unit within ICE tracks MS-13 arrests, but monthly data on gang and MS-13 arrests during Trump’s time in office is not available.

From fiscal years 2005 through 2016, immigration officials made 7,051 MS-13 arrests, ICE said.

ICE removal data shows how many individuals were suspected or confirmed gang members. But it does not say to which gang they were affiliated. In fiscal year 2016, ICE removed 240,255 individuals and 2,057 were suspected or confirmed gang members, the agency reported.

During the full two months that Trump has been in office (February and March), a total of 36,467 individuals have been removed, according to an ICE official. ICE said it did not have information on how many of them were gang members.An executive order signed by Trump expanded removal priorities to include immigrants in the country illegally who have been convicted of crimes as well as those who have been charged with a criminal offense but not yet convicted.

Our ruling

Trump tweeted, "The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S. We are removing them fast!"

MS-13 gangs in the United States were established decades before Obama took office and had been spreading across the U.S. long before his tenure. Experts told us there is no evidence Obama policies spurred their growth. Finally, Obama prioritized the deportation of criminal immigrants.

Immigration officials told us data on how many MS-13 gang members have been arrested and removed under Trump’s administration is not available.

We rate Trump’s claim False.

Thanks to PolitiFact.

Monday, April 17, 2017

MS-13 Gangster Pleads Guilty to Attempted Murder of Rival Gang Member

A member of MS-13’s East Boston Loco Salvatrucha (EBLS) clique pleaded guilty in connection with the assault of a rival gang member in East Boston.

Christian Alvarado, a/k/a “Catracho,” 28, of East Boston, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as racketeering or RICO conspiracy, and conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for July 6, 2017.

After a three-year investigation, Alvarado was one of 61 persons named in a January 2016 superseding indictment targeting the criminal activities of alleged leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 in Massachusetts. As alleged in court documents, MS-13 was identified as a violent transnational criminal organization whose branches or “cliques” operate throughout the United States, including in Massachusetts. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the group. Specifically, MS-13 members are required to attack and murder gang rivals whenever possible.

On May 11, 2008, Alvarado and other MS-13 members, including fellow EBLS member Edgar Pleitez, also known as “Cadejo,” attempted to murder a gang rival by beating him near a soccer stadium in East Boston. Alvarado also allegedly conspired with Santos Portillo-Andrade, also known as “Flaco,” the leader of the EBLS clique, and Pleitez to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. On several occasions in August 2015, Alvarado and Pleitez were recorded selling heroin to a cooperating witness. In addition, using a court-authorized wiretap, federal agents intercepted telephone calls between Alvarado and Portillo-Andrade in which the two men allegedly discussed selling a half-kilogram of heroin for $26,000. On Oct. 26, 2015, agents followed Alvarado and Portillo-Andrade to the sale, after which, the agents stopped Alvarado and Portillo-Andrade’s car and seized $26,000 in cash as well as a loaded firearm and a machete.

The RICO conspiracy charge provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. The charge of conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and no greater than 40 years in prison, a minimum of four years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of up to $8 million.

Alvarado is the thirteenth defendant to plead guilty in this case. Other defendants have pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy, drug trafficking, document fraud, and immigration offenses.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty to Violent Racketeering Conspiracy #LaMaraSalvatrucha

A Hyattsville, Maryland, man pleaded guilty to charges related to his participation in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, including participating in a murder.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Chief Hank Stawinski of the Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department; Chief Douglas Holland of the Hyattsville Police Department; and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks made the announcement.

Jose Rodriguez-Nunez, aka Killer, 27, pleaded yesterday before Senior U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus of the District of Maryland to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise.

MS-13 is a national and transnational gang with branches or “cliques” operating throughout the United States, including in Prince George’s County, Montgomery County and Frederick County, Maryland.  In pleading guilty, Rodriguez-Nunez admitted that he was a member of MS-13 and an associate of the MS-13 Weedons Clique.

According to his plea agreement, beginning in 2010, Rodriguez-Nunez conspired with members and associates of MS-13 to engage in crimes to further the interests of the gang, including murder, assault, robbery, extortion by threat of violence, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and witness retaliation.  Specifically, Rodriguez-Nunez admitted to his role as the driver in a drive-by shooting on Dec. 5, 2012, in which another MS-13 member shot at three individuals believed to be gang rivals, killing one and wounding another.  After the shooting, Rodriguez-Nunez fled the scene to avoid being identified, he admitted.

In addition to Rodriguez-Nunez, eight other defendants have pleaded guilty and three have been convicted at trial for their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

MS-13 Gang Leaders Face New Charge of Murder

As part of an ongoing investigation into the criminal activities of leaders, members, and associates of the criminal organization “La Mara Salvatrucha,” or “MS-13,” a federal grand jury has handed down a fourth superseding indictment adding allegations that six members of MS-13 murdered a 16-year-old in July 2015.

Oscar Noe Recinos-Garcia, a/k/a “Psycho;” German Hernandez-Escobar, a/k/a “Terible;” Noe Salvador Perez-Vasquez, a/k/a “Crazy;” Jose Rene Andrade, a/k/a “Triste,” a/k/a “Inocente;” Josue Alexis De Paz, a/k/a “Gato;” and Manuel Diaz-Granados, a/k/a “Perverso,” are charged with federal racketeering conspiracy, the object of which included the murder of Jose Aguilar-Villanueva, a/k/a “Fantasma”, age 16, who was stabbed to death in O’Connell Park in Lawrence on July 5, 2015. Four of these six individuals -- Recinos-Garcia, Hernandez-Escobar,  Perez-Vasquez, and Andrade -- were previously charged with racketeering conspiracy. De Paz and Diaz-Granados are newly charged. In documents previously filed with the Court, Hernandez-Escobar and Perez-Vasquez are identified as leaders of MS-13’s Everett Loco Salvatrucha (ELS) clique.

The superseding indictment alleges that on July 5, 2015, the defendants stabbed Aguilar-Villanueva to death in O’Connell Park in Lawrence.  Including the murder of Aguilar-Villanueva, the fourth superseding indictment now alleges that a total of 17 members of MS-13 are responsible for six murders from October 2014 to January 2016 in Chelsea, East Boston, and Lawrence, as well as the attempted murders of at least 15 people. Two MS-13 members -- Edwin Gonzalez, a/k/a “Sangriento;” and Noe Perez-Vasquez, a/k/a “Crazy,” are named as participants in two of the RICO murders. The fourth superseding indictment re-alleges that more than fifty leaders, members, and associates of MS-13 conspired to commit murder, attempted murder, and drug trafficking. Various other defendants are also charged with drug trafficking, firearm violations, immigration offenses, and fraudulent document charges.

The charge of RICO conspiracy provides a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, or life if the violation is based on racketeering activity for which the maximum penalty includes life imprisonment; three years of supervised release; and a fine of $250,000.

United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Jonathan Blodgett, Essex County District Attorney; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Matthew Etre, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Colonel Richard D. McKeon, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; Chief James X. Fitzpatrick of the Lawrence Police Department; Commissioner  Thomas Turco of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections; Sheriff Frank G. Cousins, Jr. of the Essex County Sheriff Department; Sheriff Steven W. Tompkins of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department; Daniel F. Conley, Suffolk County District Attorney; Marian T. Ryan, Middlesex County District Attorney; Boston Police Commissioner William Evans; Chief Brian A. Kyes of the Chelsea Police Department; Chief Steven A. Mazzie of the Everett Police Department; Chief Kevin Coppinger of the Lynn Police Department; Chief Joseph Cafarelli of the Revere Police Department; and Chief David Fallon of the Somerville Police Department, made the announcement.

Friday, June 03, 2016

8 MS-13 Members Convicted of Multiple Racketeering-Related Charges

A federal jury convicted eight defendants of multiple charges related to a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, after a 16-week trial.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey and Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher of the FBI’s Newark, New Jersey, Division made the announcement.

Santos Reyes-Villatoro, aka Mousey, 43, of Bound Brook, New Jersey; Mario Oliva, aka Zorro, 29, of Plainfield, New Jersey; Roberto Contreras, aka Demonio, 27, of Bound Brook; Julian Moz-Aguilar, aka Humilde and Demente, 28, of Plainfield; Hugo Palencia, aka Taliban, 24, of Plainfield; Jose Garcia, aka Chucky and Diabolico, 24, of Plainfield; Cruz Flores, aka Bruja, 30, of Plainfield; and Esau Ramirez, aka Panda, 25, of Plainfield, were convicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.  Reyes-Villatoro, Oliva, Contreras, Moz-Aguilar, Palencia, Ramirez and Garcia were each convicted of one count of racketeering conspiracy; Reyes-Villatoro, Oliva, Palencia and Moz-Aguilar were each convicted of one count of murder in aid of racketeering, one count of using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence and causing death through use of a firearm; Contreras was convicted of one count of accessory after the fact to murder in aid of racketeering; Garcia was convicted of one count of murder-for-hire conspiracy, one count of travel in interstate commerce with intent to commit murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering; Flores was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering and one count of murder in aid of racketeering; and Ramirez was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 7, 2016, before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler of the District of New Jersey.

According to evidence presented at trial, MS-13 is a national and transnational gang with branches or “cliques” operating throughout the United States, including in Plainfield.  All of the defendants were members of the Plainfield Locos Salvatrucha (PLS) Clique of MS-13, and Reyes-Villatoro, Oliva and Contreras all served as “First Word,” or leader, of the PLS Clique.

According to evidence presented at trial, from at least 2007 through September 2013, MS-13 members from the PLS Clique committed five murders in furtherance of MS-13.  On Feb. 9, 2009, Reyes-Villatoro, acting as the leader of the PLS Clique, drove Moz-Aguilar and other MS-13 members through the streets of Plainfield searching for rival gang members, eventually stopping at the Plainfield Train Station.  There, Moz-Aguilar used a firearm previously provided by Reyes-Villatoro to murder a victim who was believed to be a member of the Latin Kings, a rival gang.  On Feb. 27, 2010, Oliva drove a female member of MS-13 to an empty parking lot in Piscataway, New Jersey, and murdered her because she was suspected of working with law enforcement.  Oliva then fled the state of New Jersey with the assistance of Contreras and hid from law enforcement with the MS-13 Pinos Clique in Oxon Hill, Maryland.  On Nov. 11, 2010, Palencia drove another MS-13 member to the area around Barack Obama Academy in Plainfield, where they encountered students challenging MS-13.  Palencia pulled over, handed a firearm to another MS-13 member and instructed him to shoot at one of the individuals.  The MS-13 member shot into the crowd, killing a bystander.  On Jan. 10, 2011, Moz-Aguilar, Roberto Contreras and other MS-13 members were in a car when they spotted a suspected 18th Street gang member in front of a restaurant.  Contreras stopped the vehicle and an MS-13 member exited, approached the suspected rival gang member and shot him in the head.  On May 8, 2011, Flores carried out an MS-13 murder on a victim who was caught socializing with 18th Street gang members.  Flores and another MS-13 member cut the victim’s throat, beat him with a bat and stabbed him in the back 17 times.  An MS-13 member involved in this murder fled New Jersey and was driven to Maryland soon after law enforcement began search for him. 

Evidence at trial also showed that Garcia recruited and hired MS-13 members from the Maryland-based Pinos Clique to come to New Jersey and murder a woman in exchange for $40,000.  The Pinos Clique members were arrested by authorities as they pulled into Plainfield.  After several MS-13 members were arrested in July 2011, Ramirez and Garcia used phones from inside the Union County, New Jersey, Jail to order the murder of three witnesses believed to be cooperating with police and responsible for their arrests.  According to evidence presented at trial, members of the PLS Clique were responsible for an attempted murder of suspected Latin King members near a car wash in Plainfield; the attempted murder of suspected Latin King members in January 2009; a machete attack in May 2011 and another in June 2011 on the train tracks passing through Plainfield; an attempted murder shooting in Plainfield in May 2011; and several other additional violent crimes including extortion, robbery and several weapons offenses.

In addition to these convictions, five of the 14 other defendants charged in this investigation have pleaded guilty to their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.  One defendant remains a fugitive.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

6 MS-13 Gangsters Convicted of Multiple Murders and Attempted Murder

Six members of the street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were convicted by a federal jury for their roles in three murders and one attempted murder in Northern Virginia, among other charges.

“These violent gang members brutally murdered three men and attempted to murder a fourth,” said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Extreme violence is the hallmark of MS-13, and these horrific crimes represent exactly what the gang stands for. This was a highly complicated, death penalty eligible case with 13 defendants and more than two dozen defense attorneys. To say I am proud of our trial team and investigative partners is an understatement. I want to thank them for their terrific work on this case and for bringing these criminals to justice.”

“The defendants terrorized our local communities with senseless, depraved acts of threats, intimidation and violence,” said Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “They murdered in the name of MS-13, but as this jury’s verdict makes clear, no gang can protect them from facing justice for their crimes. This verdict sends a clear message that the FBI will hold violent gangs and murderers fully accountable for their actions.  I would like to thank the agents, analysts and prosecutors for their tireless efforts to eradicate gang violence in our communities.”

A total of 13 defendants were charged in this case. Of those, six defendants went to trial and were convicted of all charges. Six defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial, and one defendant was severed from the case and will have a separate trial at a later date.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on Oct. 1, 2013, Jose Lopez Torres, Jaime Rosales Villegas and others drove to Gar-Field High School in Woodbridge to murder a fellow gang member.  However, one of the gang members in the car had not only alerted police to the murder plot, he also made recorded phone calls and wore a body wire to a meeting where the gang members, including Pedro Anthony Romero Cruz, who participated from prison on a contraband cell phone, planned the murder. The gang members’ vehicle was under surveillance that night, the victim had been warned to not be at school, and the informant was wearing a body wire.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on Oct. 7, 2013, Torres, Omar DeJesus Castillo, Juan Carlos Marquez Ayala, Araely Santiago Villanueva, Jose Del Cid, and three others murdered fellow gang member Nelson Omar Quintanilla Trujillo. The gang believed Trujillo was a snitch, and so the gang members lured him to Holmes Run Park in Falls Church, and brutally killed him by stabbing him with knives and slashing him with a machete. When they were done they buried Trujillo in a shallow grave.  Several gang members returned a short time later and, with the assistance of Alvin Gaitan Benitez, reburied the body of Trujillo.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on March 29, 2014, Castillo, Benitez, Christian Lemus Cerna, Manuel Ernesto Paiz Guevara, Villanueva, Del Cid, and one other murdered Gerson Adoni Martinez Aguilar, a gang recruit, for breaking gang rules.  Like Trujillo, the gang members lured him to Holmes Run Park and killed him. They stabbed him repeatedly, cut off his head, and then buried him in a shallow grave.

According to court records and evidence presented at trial, on June 19, 2014, Jesus Alejandro Chavez, Del Cid, and Genaro Sen Garcia murdered Julio Urrutia. Several gang members including Chavez, who had been released from prison eight days earlier, were out looking for rival gang members when they approached a group of young men, flashed their gang signs, and challenged them about their gang affiliation. During the exchange Chavez pulled out a gun and shot Urrutia in the neck at point blank range.

Each defendant convicted at trial faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison when sentenced.  Villegas and Cruz face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit murder charge, in addition to a consecutive minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.  Villegas also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the attempted murder charge. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Monday, April 18, 2016

More Than 20 Mexican Mafia Gang Members Arrested in Historic Raids

"Not in my town." That's the message Seguin police hope they got across to gangs.

Nearly a dozen raids were executed as the result of an 18-month long investigation into the Mexican Mafia.

Seguin police say that, as a result, they've put a dent in the gang and drug activity in their community.

Among the day's take: piles of drugs, $60,000 in cash, and several weapons removed from nearly a dozen locations where Mexican Mafia gang members were known to operate. "We do believe that this is going to cause an incredibly serious interruption in the Mexican Mafia in this region," Seguin Police Department Deputy Chief Bruce Ure said.

The investigation into the drug activity began in Seguin 18 months ago with other local, state and federal agencies helping with the execution of those search warrants. "The operation spanned as far west as San Antonio and went as far east as the Houston area. And as far north as New Braunfels," Deputy Chief Ure said.

All the arrests resulted in federal and state drug charges.

One woman at the scene says her family has no affiliation with the Mexican Mafia. "There's no gang members here. They need to get their investigation straight before they come accusing," said Amy Herrera, whose family's home was raided. But police say that all of the locations raided Friday were known to have drug activity. "They are all known Mexican Mafia gang members and if you know anything about the Mexican Mafia, they're a vicious, vicious gang," Deputy Chief Ure said.

It's a gang they hope they have sent a strong message to. "Our gang members need to know whether you're in the MS13, or the Mexican Mafia, or where ever you are. If you're in our region, you're on our radar," Deputy Chief Ure said.

Those that were arrested remain behind bars, including a high-ranking "lieutenant," until their detention hearings in federal court.

Authorities say they are still searching for three other men wanted for drug charges.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

MS-13 "Player" Admits Plan to Kill Rival Gang Members and Witnesses

A Plainfield, New Jersey, man pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to engage in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey and Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel of the FBI’s Newark, New Jersey, Division made the announcement.

Julio Adalberto Orellana-Carranza, aka Player, 27, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler of the District of New Jersey, who scheduled sentencing for May 4, 2016.  Orellana-Carranza remains detained pending sentencing.

According to court documents, MS-13 is a national and international gang with branches or “cliques” operating throughout the United States, including in Plainfield.  In connection with his plea, Orellana-Carranza admitted that he was a member of the Plainfield Locos Salvatrucha (PLS) Clique of MS-13 for a period of time continuing through at least August 2011.  Orellana-Carranza admitted that in June 2011, he and other members of the PLS clique plotted to kill rival gang members in Plainfield.  Orellana-Carranza also admitted that after local authorities arrested him for that plot, he and other jailed MS-13 members hatched a plan to intimidate and/or kill individuals they believed were cooperating with law enforcement in the prosecution of MS-13 members.              

Eleven other members and associates of the PLS Clique are scheduled for trial in front of Judge Chesler on Feb. 9, 2016.  The charges include several counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, robbery, extortion, witness retaliation and sexual assault.

Co-defendant Jose Romero-Aguirre, aka Conejo, pleaded guilty on Dec. 2, 2015.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Juan "Cruzito" Garcia, Former #Top10MostWantedFugitive and Member of #MS13 Gang to Spend Life in Prison

At the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York, Juan Garcia, also known as “Cruzito,” a member of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13 street gang, was sentenced to life by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco. Garcia and two other MS-13 members, Adalberto Ariel Guzman and Rene Mendez Mejia, shot and killed 19-year-old Vanessa Argueta and her two-year-old son, Diego Torres, in Central Islip, New York, on February 5, 2010. Garcia and Mejia shot Argueta in the chest and head, respectively, and Guzman shot Torres twice in the head. After committing the murders, Garcia and his co-conspirators fled to El Salvador. Guzman and Mejia were arrested in May 2010, but Garcia remained a fugitive for four years until March 2014, when, after being placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List, he surrendered to law enforcement authorities in Nicaragua, waived extradition, and was returned to the United States for prosecution. He pled guilty on October 15, 2014.

The sentence was announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.

“The MS-13 is infamous for committing senseless and brutal acts of violence, but, even for the MS-13, the murders of Vanessa Argueta and Diego Torres were particularly depraved and callous,” United States Attorney Capers stated. “However, as a result of the tenacious investigation and prosecution jointly conducted by this Office and our law enforcement partners, Garcia and his co-conspirators have been captured, convicted, and justly sentenced for cold-bloodedly executing a young mother and her two-year-old child.” United States Attorney Capers expressed his sincere gratitude to the members of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, the FBI’s Violent Criminal Threat Section, and the FBI’s Legal Attaches for El Salvador and Panama, for their unwavering commitment to bring Garcia and his co-conspirators to justice for the Argueta and Torres murders.

“Today’s sentencing is the final chapter in the government’s commitment to get justice for the victims. Garcia and his fellow MS-13 members senselessly and callously murdered a young mother and her toddler five years ago. The FBI is committed to working with our partners to not only root-out gangs in our communities but also bring their crimes to justice,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Rodriguez.

Garcia and other MS-13 members, including MS-13 leader, Heriberto Martinez, Guzman, and Mejia plotted to kill Argueta because they believed she had disrespected the MS-13 by sending rival gang members to attack Garcia.

Martinez was convicted in March 2013, following a six-week trial, in connection with the Argueta murder, as well as the March 6, 2010 murder of Nestor Moreno in Hempstead, New York, and the March 17, 2010 murder of Mario Alberto Canton Quijada in Far Rockaway, New York, and later sentenced to life in prison, plus 60 years. Guzman was convicted on charges relating to the Argueta and Torres murders in September 2013, following a three-week trial, and later sentenced to life in prison, plus 35 years. Mejia pled guilty to the Argueta and Torres murders and is pending sentence.

The convictions of Garcia and his codefendants are the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York targeting members of the MS-13, a violent international criminal organization. The MS-13’s leadership is based in El Salvador and Honduras, but the gang has thousands of members across the United States, comprised primarily of immigrants from Central America. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the largest and most violent street gang on Long Island. Since 2003, hundreds of MS-13 members, including dozens of clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. A majority of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges for participating in murders, attempted murders and assaults. Since 2010 alone, this Office has obtained indictments charging MS-13 members with carrying out more than 25 murders in the Eastern District of New York, and has convicted dozens of MS-13 leaders and members in connection with those murders. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, comprising agents and officers of the FBI, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, and Suffolk County Police Department.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

3 MS-13 Members Sentenced to Prison for a Gang-Related Murder and Shooting

Three MS-13 gang members were sentenced to federal prison for violent crimes that they committed on behalf of the gang, including the 2006 murder of a rival gang member and 2008 shooting of a teenage boy, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney John A. Horn of the Northern District of Georgia.

Miguel Guevara, aka Blacky, 31, of Fort Walton Beach, Florida; Irvin Mejia Cruz, aka Triste, Lil Triste, 24, of Duluth, Georgia; and Walter Aldana, aka Goofy, 24, of Norcross, Georgia, were sentenced to 30 years in prison, nine years in prison, and 10 years in prison, respectively. U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story of the Northern District of Georgia imposed the sentences.  The defendants each pleaded guilty in October 2013 to RICO conspiracy, and Guevara also pleaded guilty to using a firearm in relation to the commission of a crime of violence.

According to admissions made in connection with the defendants’ guilty pleas, the charges and other information presented in court, Mara Salvatrucha 13, or MS-13, is an international gang that originated in El Salvador and Honduras and spread to the United States. MS-13 members are organized into regional “cliques” within the larger gang. Each clique has a leader, often referred to as “the first word,” who conducts weekly meetings. At these meetings, members discuss their crimes and their plans to retaliate against rival gang members. The clique leaders collect dues from the gang members, which they use to buy guns and post bail for jailed gang members. Clique leaders often send money back to MS-13 leaders in their home countries, and report back to the same leaders about the clique’s activities on behalf of the gang.

MS-13 has operated in the greater Atlanta area since at least 2005. The gang staked out Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties as their home territory, where they committed murders, attempted murders and armed robberies, among other crimes.

According to admissions in connection with his guilty plea, Guevara was a member of MS-13, but in 2006, he decided to become less active in the gang and sought permission to “calm down” from the leader of his clique, Miguel Alvarado-Linares, aka Joker. Alvarado-Linares discussed this with other members at a meeting of the clique on Dec. 23, 2006, and the other gang members agreed that Guevara would have to shoot at a suspected rival gang member before he could become inactive. Guevara admitted that he and other gang members went to a nightclub in the early morning hours of Dec. 24, 2006 to hunt for rival gang members. Guevara admitted that he saw two rival gang members walk out of the night club and get into a car. Guevara and the other MS-13 members then followed the rival gang members. As the rival gang members exited the freeway, the MS-13 gang members pulled alongside, and Guevara fired multiple shots at the rival gang members. Guevara killed one of the gang members and wounded the other.

In connection with their guilty pleas, Cruz and Aldana admitted that they belonged to the same MS-13 clique. They further admitted that Mejia Cruz advised Aldana to shoot someone if he wanted to earn more respect within MS-13, and, on Aug. 21, 2008, Mejia Cruz gave Aldana a gun for the task. Aldana admitted that he left Mejia Cruz’s house with the gun, and encountered a group of teenagers, some of whom were playing basketball. Aldana challenged the teenagers, “Who do you claim,” asking to which gang they claimed allegiance. He then started firing into the crowd and struck a 14 year-old boy in the back. Aldana called out “Mara Salvatrucha” as he fled on foot.  He later returned the firearm to Mejia Cruz.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

MS-13 Gang Leader, Carlos "Catracho" Valdez, Pleads Guilty to Murder Conspiracy

A Hudson County, N.J., man admitted to trying to kill a rival gang member, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Carlos Valdez, a/k/a “Catracho,” 27, was indicted in July 2014 with numerous other top-ranking members of the international criminal street gang, Mara Salvatrucha (also known as “MS” or “MS-13”), for racketeering crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder. Valdez, who admitted to being the leader of an MS-13 set, or “clique,” operating in Hudson County, known as “Hudson Locotes Salvatruchas,” pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark federal court to Count One of the indictment, engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, and Count Five, conspiring to possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

In autumn 2013, Valdez was recruited by Joel Antonio Cortez, a/k/a “Pee Wee,” a high-ranking member of Mara Salvatrucha’s national leadership, to join the “national program,” a scheme to consolidate the gang’s cliques under a single, nationwide organization devoted to violence, extortion, and drug trafficking. At the time, Cortez was incarcerated in a California state prison and used a contraband cellular phone to remain in contact with Mara Salvatrucha members on the East Coast. Cortez served as a top deputy for Jose Juan Rodriguez-Juarez, a/k/a “Sacerdote,” the leader of Mara Salvatrucha in the United States and the primary organizer of the new “national program.”

In November 2013, Valdez and other gang leaders in northern New Jersey hatched a plot to murder two brothers in Hudson County, New Jersey. Before carrying out the plot, Valdez and others sought authorization from high-ranking members in the gang’s national and international leadership, including Cortez and incarcerated members of the gang in El Salvador. Law enforcement learned of the murder plot during the course of its investigation and arrested certain gang members, including Valdez, before it could be completed.

Both of the charges to which Valdez pleaded guilty carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for March 16, 2015.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

638 gang members arrested during #ProjectSouthBound Operation

More than 600 gang members and associates from 145 different gangs were arrested in 179 cities across the U.S. during Project Southbound, a month-long operation executed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which targeted gangs affiliated with the Sureños.

The Sureños, also known as Sur 13, is a transnational criminal street gang that originated in Southern California with hundreds of cliques around the United States. The Sureños and their affiliates pay tribute to the Mexican Mafia and the number “13” is their symbol signifying “M” in the alphabet for Mexican Mafia. Membership and cliques associated with the Sureños are expanding faster than any other national-level gang in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Gang Intelligence Center’s 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment. Sureños gang members are involved in a myriad of criminal activity, including murder, extortion, narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, prostitution and other crimes with a nexus to the border.

Through Project Southbound, which ran March 12 to April 13, HSI special agents worked with 150 federal, state and local law enforcement partners to apprehend individuals from various gangs affiliated with the Sureños. More than 73 percent of those arrested during this HSI National Gang Unit-led operation were members or associates of the Sureños.

In addition to the 638 gang members and associates, HSI agents also arrested – or assisted in the arrest of – 119 other individuals on federal and/or state criminal violations and administrative immigration violations, for a total of 757 arrests.

“Project Southbound is the largest-ever ICE operation targeting the Sureños gang,” said ICE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas S. Winkowski. “This gang now has more than 30,000 members in the United States and its numbers are growing. Targeting transnational gangs like the Sureños is a top priority for ICE and we will continue to disrupt and dismantle the violence and criminal activities that they inflict upon our neighborhoods.”

Of the 638 gang members or associates arrested: 525 were charged with criminal offenses; 113 were arrested administratively for immigration violations; 414 had violent criminal histories, including seven individuals wanted for murder and five wanted for rape or sexual assault; and 256 were foreign nationals.

Among the Sureños gang members or associates arrested during Project Southbound were:


  • Cesar Lisandro Anaya, 27, an El Salvadoran national and an 18th Street gang member, arrested in Dallas, Texas, on immigration-related charges. He is wanted in El Salvador on felony warrants for aggravated homicide, extortion, and illicit groupings (gang activity). 
  • Nine MS-13 gang members arrested on RICO charges filed in the District of Maryland stemming from their involvement in multiple criminal acts including murder, assault, extortion and prostitution, in furtherance of MS-13.
  • Richard Allen Cotinola, a U.S. citizen and Brewtown Locos gang member, arrested in New Mexico on an outstanding state warrant for violation of parole related to a previous conviction for aggravated burglary with a weapon. He has previous convictions for aggravated burglary with a weapon and armed robbery.
  • A father and son arrested in San Francisco on state narcotics and firearms charges following the execution of state search warrants on the father’s property. The father, a Sureños gang associate and previously deported aggravated felon, accused of supplying large quantities of high-quality, commercially-grown marijuana to Sureños and Latin Kings gang members. During these arrests, HSI agents seized 4,669 marijuana plants, 25 pounds of processed marijuana, an AR-15 rifle, a stolen Glock handgun, four diesel generators, four vehicles and $85,635 in cash.   


Those arrested during Project Southbound came from 21 countries in South and Central America, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Of the total 757 arrested, 678 were males and 79 were females.

HSI special agents also seized 54 firearms, 13.36 pounds of methamphetamine, 82.76 pounds of marijuana, 3.075 pounds of cocaine, 1.44 pounds of heroin, more than $166,000 in U.S currency and 10 vehicles during Project Southbound.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Juan Elias Garcia, #MS13 Member, Named to FBI's Top 10 List

Juan Elias Garcia, wanted for the execution-style murder of a 19-year-old New York woman and her 2-year-old son, has been named to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.

Juan Elias Garcia, #MS13 Member, Named to FBI's Top 10 List


A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information leading directly to the arrest of Garcia, who is alleged to be a member of the violent Mara Salvatrucha gang—MS-13—and may be hiding in El Salvador.

“Garcia’s callous disregard for human life resulted in the senseless murder of a young mother and her helpless 2-year-old son,” said George Venizelos, assistant director in charge of our New York Field Office. “His appointment to the FBI’s Top Ten list illustrates not only the seriousness of his crimes but our commitment to seeking justice for his victims.”

The murders occurred in Central Islip, New York in 2010. At that time, Garcia—who is known by the nickname “Cruzito”—was 17 years old.

“MS-13 is the most violent gang here of any of the street gangs,” said Special Agent Reynaldo Tariche, who investigated the case with other members of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force. While gang-related murders are not uncommon on Long Island, “the execution of a 2-year-old and his mother is a new low even for MS-13,” Tariche noted.

Garcia had a romantic relationship with the 19-year-old victim, Vanessa Argueta, who had ties to the 18th Street gang and the Latin Kings, two of MS-13’s rivals. After a falling out between Argueta and Garcia, rival gang members allegedly threatened Garcia. When he relayed that information to fellow MS-13 members—that he had been threatened because of information provided by Argueta—it was decided to retaliate against her.

“They were going to kill her for disrespecting the gang,” said Special Agent James Lopez, also a member of the task force. According to gang code, Lopez explained, “it is unacceptable for MS-13 members to have girls they associate with be involved with rival gang members.”

“Garcia was an enthusiastic murderer,” Tariche said. “He was the reason why this happened. He was the one who decided to get the gang involved. It wasn’t about a boyfriend-girlfriend dispute. This was about disrespecting the gang. And the penalty for that is death.”

On February 4, 2010, Garcia invited Argueta to dinner but instead lured her and her son into the woods. Along with two other MS-13 members, he executed her with two shots from a handgun while her son looked on. The gun was then turned on the child. The first shot knocked him to the ground but did not kill him. The boy got up and clutched at Garcia’s leg, but another gang member shot again and killed him

Garcia should be considered armed and dangerous. He is 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighs 125 pounds, and has black hair and brown eyes. He is known to speak Spanish and English and has ties to Santa Rosa de Lima in El Salvador as well as Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama. His two co-conspirators have been convicted of murder and are awaiting sentencing. A fourth defendant charged in connection with the murders—Garcia’s MS-13 leader—has been sentenced to three terms of life in prison, plus 60 years.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Four #MS13 Gang leaders sentenced for conspiring to commit senseless acts of murder, attempted murder, and armed robbery

For nearly four years, four leaders of various Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, factions operating in the Atlanta metro area terrorized the community through their flagrant disregard for life—conspiring to commit senseless acts of murder, attempted murder, and armed robbery. But a multi-year, multi-agency law enforcement effort recently took down this criminal enterprise, eradicating a deadly threat from the streets of Atlanta. Ernesto Escobar, Miguel Alvarado-Linares, and Dimas Alfaro-Granados will be spending the rest of their lives in prison, while Jairo Reyna-Ozuna will be behind bars for more than a decade.

The MS-13 gang is composed primarily of immigrants and/or their descendants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In the U.S., this extremely violent criminal organization got its start in Los Angeles and then spread out to a number of states around the country, including Georgia.

In Atlanta, as in other areas, members are usually organized into groups called “cliques” that operate under the larger MS-13 umbrella. Each clique has a leader who conducts regular meetings to plan and discuss crimes against rival gangs. In this case, we saw clique leaders reporting back to MS-13 leaders in their home countries about MS-13 activities in the Atlanta area.

The four defendants in this case, who reportedly lived by the credo “rape, kill, control,” perpetrated their crimes for seemingly minor reasons—to enhance their reputations among fellow gang members, to protect their turf from rival gangs, or to exact revenge for a real or perceived slight. The robberies were usually committed to obtain funding to support the criminal enterprise, providing money and weapons to gang members—including incarcerated individuals in the U.S and elsewhere.

Some of the heinous crimes the defendants were charged with included:


  • Murdering a fellow MS-13 member who was thought to be cooperating with police;
  • Ordering an MS-13 member who wanted to leave the gang to first commit an act of violence, leading the departing member to shoot into a car believed to be carrying rival gang members—killing the passenger and wounding the driver;
  • Returning to a nightclub following a fight with a suspected rival gang member and fatally shooting a man walking through the club’s parking lot;
  • Going back to a gas station after a scuffle with two teenagers who worked there and fatally shooting one of them as he painted lines in the parking lot;
  • Murdering a 15-year-old boy—a suspected 18th Street gang member—with a shotgun.

The case was investigated by the Atlanta Safe Streets Task Force, made up of investigators from local, state, and federal agencies, including the FBI. Another key partner was the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Directorate.

Federal participation in this case allowed a number of effective tools to be brought to the table—perhaps most importantly the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) and the VICAR (Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering) statutes with their tougher penalties. Investigators also made use of physical and court-authorized electronic surveillances and confidential informants.

The charges against the four subjects in this case were part of a broader multi-agency investigation of MS-13 in Atlanta, concluded in 2010, which resulted in arrests of, charges against, and/or deportation of 75 members.

Proof positive that dedicated, cooperative efforts among law enforcement agencies can and do win out over dangerous criminal conspiracies.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Francisco Ponce, a #MS13 Gang Leader, Pleads Guilty to Racketeering

Francisco Ponce, a leader of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13 street gang (MS-13), pleaded guilty at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York, to racketeering, including predicate acts relating to the February 15, 2009 armed robbery of the Pollo Campero restaurant in Lindenhurst, New York, and the September 12, 2009 armed robbery of Los Hermanos Grocery in Brentwood, New York, which resulted in the murder of Miguel Peralta, an employee of that grocery. When sentenced, Ponce faces up to life in prison.

The guilty plea was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office.

“Ponce was in charge of the MS-13 'brand' in New York and sought to strengthen it with acts of mayhem. Seeking funds to fuel their violent lifestyle in New York and abroad, he and his cohorts robbed and terrorized Long Island neighborhoods. Miguel Peralta fell victim to their thirst for blood and money when he unknowingly walked in on a robbery at the store at which he worked,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “This office and our law enforcement partners will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute gang members, especially those who terrorize our communities and, as demonstrated in the tragic murder of Mr. Peralta, kill innocent victims.”

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos stated, “Rather than function as a productive member of society, the defendant instead chose a life of crime, intent on spreading fear and violence throughout our community. The FBI is committed to removing these violent criminals from our streets. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to dismantle MS-13 and bring to justice every gang member who victimizes the public.”

According to court filings and facts presented during the plea proceeding, Ponce and two other MS-13 members, Joyser Velasquez, also known as “Baby Boy,”1 and Carlos Chicas, also known as “Flaco,” carried out the September 12, 2009 armed robbery of Los Hermanos Grocery and the murder of Miguel Peralta. Shortly before midnight, Velasquez and Chicas, who were armed with semi-automatic handguns, entered the store while Ponce waited as the getaway driver. Peralta, who was sweeping a storeroom in the back of the store, heard the commotion, entered the front of the store, and came face to face with Velasquez, who shot him once in the side. Peralta then ran down an aisle where he was confronted by Chicas, who shot him in the head. The robbers then rifled through the cash register, took cash and checks, and fled to the awaiting getaway car that was driven by Ponce.

Several months prior to the Peralta murder, Ponce, Velasquez, and two other MS- 13 members, Wilmer Granillo, also known as “Chele,” and Freddy Fuentes-Gonzalez, also known as “Pitufo,”2 committed an armed robbery of the Pollo Campero restaurant in Lindenhurst, New York. Specifically, on February 15, 2009, Velasquez—who was armed with a semi-automatic handgun—Granillo,and Fuentes-Gonzalez entered the Pollo Campero restaurant wearing hooded sweatshirts and ski masks, held the employees at gunpoint, and forced the manager to open the safe by holding a knife to his throat. The MS-13 members stole approximately $15,000 from the safe and then fled to the car, where Ponce was waiting to drive them away.

Ponce’s conviction further demonstrates the strong connection between members of the MS-13 gang in New York, El Salvador, and elsewhere. As set forth in prior court filings and testimony introduced during two recent MS-13 racketeering trials, between 2009 and 2010, Ponce was the New York leader of “The Program,” an initiative by the MS-13’s leadership in El Salvador to exercise greater control over the international MS-13 enterprise, including the MS- 13 cliques and members in New York, enforce discipline and adherence to the gang’s rules, and cause more money to be sent to MS-13 members in El Salvador and other parts of Central America. Ponce functioned as a liaison between the MS-13 clique leaders in New York and the gang’s hierarchy in El Salvador, organizing “universal meetings,” which were meetings attended by the leaders of the New York cliques of the MS-13, and collecting money from the New York cliques to purchase firearms and ammunition, which were used in furtherance of MS-13’s violent agenda and to send money to gang leaders in El Salvador.

Chicas and Granillo, two of Ponce’s co-conspirators in the Peralta murder and Pollo Campero robbery, respectively, are believed to have fled the jurisdiction and remain fugitives.3 The FBI requests that anyone with information regarding their whereabouts telephone (212) 384-1000. Chicas and Granillo should be considered armed and dangerous.

Ponce’s conviction is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York targeting members of the MS-13, a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the largest street gang on Long Island. Since 2002, more than 200 MS-13 members, including more than two dozen clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. More than 100 of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges. Since 2010 alone, this office has convicted more than 30 members of the MS-13 on charges relating to their participation in one or more murders. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, comprising agents and officers of the FBI, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, and Suffolk County Police Department.

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Raymond A. Tierney, and Carrie N. Capwell.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Heriberto "Boxer" Martinez, #MS13 Gang Leader, Sentenced to Life in Prison on Racketeering and Firearms Offenses Relating to Murder

Earlier today at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York, Heriberto Martinez, also known as “Boxer,” the former leader of the Coronados clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as the MS-13 street gang, was sentenced to life in prison. Martinez and co-defendant Carlos Ortega, also known as “Silencio,” were convicted on March 21, 2013, following a six-week trial, on all 21 counts of the trial indictment, including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, murder, assault with dangerous weapons, and related firearms and conspiracy offenses. Ortega was sentenced to life in prison on November 21, 2013.

The sentence was announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; George Venizelos, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office; and Thomas V. Dale, Commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department.

“Heriberto Martinez placed less value on human lives than he did on enforcing the barbaric rules of the MS-13 and, as a leader of the MS-13, making sure other gang members were doing the same. In keeping with those twisted rules, during a six-week period in early 2010, Martinez authorized the execution of a young mother, whom he believed had disrespected the gang, ordered the execution of a security guard for doing his job, and both advocated for and carried out the execution of a fellow MS-13 member who refused to commit senseless, violent crimes,” stated U.S. Attorney Lynch. “The jury’s verdict earlier this year and today’s sentence demonstrate that the brutal and senseless violence committed by Martinez and his fellow MS-13 members will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted tenaciously.” Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the members of the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force and the New York City Police Department for their assistance in this case.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Venizelos stated, “Martinez terrorized, victimized, and murdered members of our community in the name of MS-13. His violence and criminal activity knew no limits. Consistent with the recent sentences of other MS-13 gang members, today’s sentence of Martinez should send a clear message to all members of these violent enterprises: your actions will not be tolerated, no matter what group you hide behind. The FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue efforts to rid the streets of these violent criminals and bring them to justice.”

At trial, the government proved that Martinez, along with his fellow MS-13 gang members, killed multiple victims between February and March of 2010:


  1. Martinez was convicted in connection with the execution-style murder of Vanessa Argueta, a 19-year-old woman, in Central Islip, New York, on February 5, 2010. Martinez also was convicted of being an accessory after-the-fact in the murder of Argueta and her 2-year-old son, Diego Torres, who was shot and killed during the same criminal incident. Martinez helped three of his co-conspirators evade arrest in New York and flee to El Salvador after the commission of the murders. The bodies of Argueta and Torres were found in a secluded wooded area in Central Islip. Argueta had been shot in the head and chest, and Torres had been shot twice in the head.
  2. Martinez also was convicted in connection with the execution-style murder of 23-year-old Nestor Moreno, a security guard at El Rancho Bar and Grill in Hempstead, New York, on March 6, 2010. In late February 2010, Heriberto Martinez and several other members of the MS-13 were involved in a dispute with El Rancho employees over an unpaid bar tab. The dispute escalated into a physical altercation during which Martinez was sprayed with pepper spray. Prior to leaving El Rancho, Martinez identified himself as an MS-13 member to the victim and told him, “It’s not going to end like this.” On March 6, 2010, Martinez, along with four co-conspirators, returned to El Rancho and carried out that threat, shooting Moreno in the head at point-blank range. The gun used to kill Moreno was the same semi-automatic handgun used to kill Argueta and her son one month earlier.
  3. Both Martinez and Ortega were convicted for the March 17, 2010, murder of Mario Alberto Canton Quijada in Far Rockaway, New York. Quijada, who was a fellow member of the MS-13, was killed because of his reluctance to “put in work,” or attack rival gang members on behalf of the MS-13. On March 17, 2010, Quijada was lured to the beach in Far Rockaway under the guise of attacking rival gang members. Once alone on the beach, the MS-13 gang members tried to shoot Quijada in the head with the same semi-automatic handgun used in the murders of Moreno, Argueta, and Argueta’s son. However, the gun jammed. Undeterred, Martinez, Ortega, and the other MS-13 members set upon Quijada with knifes and machetes and hacked him to death.


Martinez’s conviction is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York targeting members of the MS-13, a violent international street gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. With numerous branches, or “cliques,” the MS-13 is the largest street gang on Long Island. Since 2002, more than 200 MS-13 members, including more than two dozen clique leaders, have been convicted on federal felony charges in the Eastern District of New York. More than 100 of those MS-13 members have been convicted on federal racketeering charges. Since 2010 alone, this office has convicted more than 30 members of the MS-13 on charges relating to their participation in one or more murders. These prosecutions are the product of investigations led by the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force, composed of agents and officers of the FBI, Nassau County Police Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Suffolk County Probation, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Rockville Centre Police Department, and Suffolk County Police Department.

The life sentence was imposed by United States District Judge Joseph F. Bianco.

The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys John J. Durham, Raymond A. Tierney, and Carrie N. Capwell.

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