Criminal aliens: Notorious MS-13 gang leaders, members indicted by Feds

July 2, 6:42 AM
Jim Kouri,

In the first indictment in Los Angeles to allege racketeering charges against the MS-13 Gang, several members, leaders and associates were arrested early Wednesday morning, according to reports obtained by the National Association of Chiefs of Police’s Organized Crime Committee.

The arrests followed the return of a federal indictment which charges two dozen defendants, including the executive director of a non-profit gang intervention organization with violations ranging from murder and conspiracy to commit murder and extortion to narcotics trafficking

The sixteen-count federal indictment charges 24 members and associates of MS-13 with participating in a racketeering conspiracy that involved a variety of crimes including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, robbery, narcotics trafficking, and witness intimidation, over a period of fifteen years. The indictment alleges the defendants who engaged in the racketeering enterprise, were responsible for seven murders and eight conspiracies to commit murder since 1995.

Five of the defendants charged allegedly conspired to murder a veteran detective with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Gang unit. According to the indictment, suspects Carlos Cuentas, Pedro Lopez, Kelvin Melgar, Francisco Morales and Eric Salazar engaged in discussions to kill the detective and even discussed the weapon that would be used to carry out the murder.

The indictment charges Alex Sanchez, the Executive Director of “Homies Unidos,” a non-profit organization which purports to use the public and private charitable contributions it receives for gang intervention efforts. Sanchez is charged with racketeering offenses, including conspiracy to murder, during the time he was associated with Homies Unidos.

“Today, in Los Angeles, where the MS-13 gang was formed, we are holding its leaders accountable for the violence and intimidation they have used to bring terror to the citizens living and working within the gang’s territory,” said Thomas P. O’Brien, the United States Attorney in Los Angeles.

The indictment is the result of a three-year investigation by the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department which focused on the leadership of multiple cliques of the MS-13 gang, spanning from 1995 to the present. MS-13 members and associates allegedly used violence and intimidation to control narcotics sales and distribution within its claimed territory, and to collect extortion payments or “rent” from gang members and non-gang members who conducted business in its territory, including legitimate businesses.

“As demonstrated by the indictment, local members of the MS-13 gang operated with a level of lethality alarming even by violent street gang standards,” said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is the birthplace for MS-13, or “Mara Salvatrucha-13,” and was formed by immigrants who fled the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s. The number “13” relates to the thirteenth letter of the alphabet, or “M,” a known to reference “La Eme,” or the Mexican Mafia, a California-based prison gang that exercises control over MS-13 members and other street gangs whose members pay taxes in exchange for protection.

MS-13 operates in areas of Los Angeles including, but not limited to Rampart, Wilshire, Olympic, and Hollywood. The gang is estimated to have several thousand members in multiple US cities, as well as throughout Central America and Mexico, and is known for its brutality.

Chief William Bratton of the LAPD said, “Since the early 1980s when they were a fledgling gang, to this very day, MS-13 has been a blight on every street where they exist. Whether house to house, street to street, or city to city, MS-13 has spread like a cancer. These indictments, arrests and warrants represent one success in an ongoing effort to rid the community of an element that lacks a single redeeming quality.”

Several arrest warrants were served by agents with the FBI and officers with the Los Angeles Police Department, while sixteen of those indicted were already in custody. One defendant was recently killed in gang-related violence in southern California.

Those charged in the indictment include:

* Jose Alfaro, 31, currently in federal custody
* Edwin Arias, 36, currently in state custody
* Hugo Bolanos, 34, of Las Vegas, arrested by FBI Agents in Las Vegas
* Juan Cendejas, 34, in federal custody
* Carlos Cuentas, 34, in federal custody
* Yanira Escalante, 33, of Los Angeles, CA, arrested Wednesday
* Juan Fuentes, 30, in federal custody
* Brian Giron, 20, in state custody
* Jose Gonzalez, 30, in federal custody
* Paul Cortez Jovel, 35, in federal custody
* Luis Lazo, 33, currently in custody in El Salvador
* Oscar Linares, 34, in federal custody
* Pedro Lopez, 27, in state custody
* Juan Mancilla, 40, in federal custody
* Josue Martinez, 33, arrested Wednesday at the Los Angeles Airport
* Kelvin Melgar, 29, in federal custody
* Fernando Morales, 25, in federal custody
* Edwin Navas, 33, currently being sought
* Ruben Pineda, 36, of Los Angeles, CA, currently being sought
* David Rivera, 30, in federal custody
* Eric Salazar, deceased, killed recently in southern California
* Alex Sanchez, 37, Bellflower, CA, arrested Wednesday
* Guillermo Vasquez-Landaver, 40, in federal custody
* Marvin Vasquez, 28, of Hollywood, CA, currently being sought

If convicted of the federal racketeering charges, defendants named in the racketeering indictment face a maximum statutory penalty ranging from 25 years to life in prison.

In addition to the twenty-four defendants listed in the indictment, at least fifteen individuals were arrested by LAPD, assisted by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Los Angeles County Department of Probation, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Drug Enforcement Administration, for charges unrelated to the federal indictment. Three children were also taken into protective custody by the Department of Child and Family Services.

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