24 alleged MS-13 members are facing federal indictment for violent racketeering, murder and money laundering conspiracies, said the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforement (ICE) in a press release dated July 7.
Gang members allegedly committed 5 murders, conspired to murder 8 persons, engaged in kidnappings, extortion, and drug trafficking. A federal grand jury has returned a third superseding indictment charging twenty-four alleged members and associates of the gang MS-13. The indictment was returned on June 26, 2018 and unsealed on July 6.
“MS-13 is ravaging communities throughout the United States with brutal violence, recruiting children to their murderous ranks, destroying families, and leaving behind countless victims,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.
“This indictment — which charges two dozen alleged MS-13 members with senseless acts of violence — is the latest example of the Department of Justice’s unwavering commitment to combatting violent gangs that prey on communities, whether in Maryland or elsewhere in our country.
“This indictment is a direct result of the hard work and dedication shared by state, local and federal authorities in their efforts to combat violent gangs in our Maryland communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson, of the FBI’s Baltimore Division. “We are committed to combating this epidemic of violence that often takes young lives and creates fear in our communities. The FBI and our partners will aggressively pursue gangs wherever they surface and are steadfast to making Maryland a safe place for our citizens.
“We will not allow MS-13 and its members or their affiliates to bring their nefarious and deadly activities into our neighborhoods,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant. “I am proud of the dedicated agents who have duly executed their duties in our collective pursuit of law, order and justice.”
Twenty-one defendants are charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as the La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, including:
- Jorge Raul Guerra Castillo, a/k/a “Pelon,” age 36;
- Carlos Hernandez Diaz, a/k/a “Positivo,” age 25;
- Milton Portillo Rodriguez, a/k/a “Little Gangster,” and “Seco,” age 23;
- Juan Carlos Sandoval Rodriguez, a/k/a “Picaro,” age 19;
- Francisco Ramirez Pena, a/k/a “Tepo,” and “Advertencia,” age 24;
- Jose Alberto Sibrian Garcia, a/k/a “Chango,” age 26;
- Darwin Arias Mejia, a/k/a “City,” and “City Boy,” age 25;
- Miguel Lopez Abrego, a/k/a “Timido,” age 30;
- Albaro Rosa Moreno, a/k/a “Slow,” age 23;
- Ervin Arrue Figureoa, a/k/a “Tricky,” age 19;
- Ronald Mendez Sosa, age 20;
- Edwin Ruiz Urrutia, a/k/a “Sylvestre,” age 19;
- Brenda Argueta Argueta, a/k/a “Prima,” age 19;
- Carlos Ventura Morales, a/k/a “Pantaya,” age 30; and
- Danny Hernandez Solorzano, a/k/a “Titre,” age 20.
The names of six other defendants charged in the racketeering conspiracy remain sealed.
In addition, Darvin Guerra Zacarias, a/k/a “Chapin,” age 26, and Luis Fernando Cruz Rodriguez, a/k/a “Catra,” age 21, are charged with conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, along with Guerra Castillo, Hernandez Diaz, Portillo Rodriguez, Sandoval Rodriguez, Ramirez Pena, Arias Mejia, Rosa Moreno, Arrue Figueroa, Mendez Sosa, Ruiz Urrutia, and Argueta Argueta.
Samuel Diaz-Ramos, a/k/a “Pequeno,” age 32, is charged with money laundering conspiracy.
MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Frederick County, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County, Maryland.
All of the defendants except for Rosa Moreno were allegedly members and associates of the Fulton Locotes Salvatrucha clique of MS-13. The indictment alleges that Rosa Moreno was a member and associate of the Parkview Locos Salvatrucha clique of MS-13.
The six-count indictment alleges that from 2015 and continuing through 2017, MS-13 members and associates engaged in racketeering activity that included murders, conspiracies to commit murder, attempted murders, extortion, robbery, kidnapping, drug trafficking, and money laundering.
Specifically, the indictment alleges that the defendants murdered five individuals in Frederick, Anne Arundel, and Montgomery Counties, dismembering three of the victims. In addition, the defendants allegedly conspired to murder eight individuals, maiming and assaulting one of the individuals with a machete, shooting one individual in the head, and kidnapping and threatening another individual with a firearm to extract payment for extortion.
The maximum sentence for the racketeering conspiracy is 20 years in prison, or up to life if special circumstances are proven; a maximum of 10 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering; and a maximum of 20 years in prison for money laundering conspiracy. Initial appearances for the defendants began on June 27, 2018, in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
President Trump has made MS-13 a symbol of a broken immigration system in the U.S. an has vowed to tackle the ‘violent animals’ of MS-13 with mass deportation. His 2017 executive order on immigration enforcement mandated a tripling of ICE agents from 5,000 to 15,000 agents. However, the 2018 DHS budget only includes funding for 1,000 additional ICE agents. Congress has been unwilling to fund more.
While prominent Democrats and liberals have called for ICE to be abolished, the President has promised to protect it. He also called on Americans to save ICE.
ICE was created in 2003 to better protect national security and public safety after 9/11 terrorists exploited immigration rules to gain entry into the United States. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks found that many of the 9/11 hijackers committed visa violations. ICE identifies dangerous individuals before they enter America and locates them as they violate its immigration laws.
“Abolishing ICE would enable the hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals who illegally overstay their visa each year to remain in the United States indefinitely,” said the White House.