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Transnational Gangs
03/13/2014

9 alleged MS-13 members charged in violent racketeering conspiracy

Gang members allegedly committed murders, attempted murders, stabbings, extortion and witness tampering

GREENBELT, Md. — A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging nine men in connection with a conspiracy to participate in murder in aid of a racketeering enterprise known as "La Mara Salvatrucha," aka MS-13.

Charged in the superseding indictment returned March 7 were:

Jorge Enrique Moreno-Aguilar, aka Flaco and Castigato, 20, and Juan Alberto Ortiz-Orellana, aka Chele and Furia, 25, both of District Heights, Md.; Melvin Marquez-Sanchez, aka Demente, 19, formerly of New York; Francisco Hernandez, aka Chicle, 20, of Silver Spring, Md.; Carlos Beltran-Flores, aka Joker, 22; Wilmer Argueta, aka Chengo and Happy, 21; Eric Antonio Mejia-Ramos, aka Flaco, 20; Minor Perez-Chach, aka Minor Chach-Perez, Little Bad and Bryant Sacarias, 23, and Miguel Angel Manjivar, aka Garra and Masflow, 21, all of Hyattsville, Md.

The indictment was unsealed March 12 upon the arrest of Hernandez. All of the defendants are in custody.

"Attacking and dismantling violent criminal enterprises like MS-13 is one of HSI's highest enforcement priorities," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore Special Agent in Charge William Winter. "Our investigation revealed that MS-13 is an enterprise that participates in criminal acts, such as murder, attempted murder, violent assaults, witness intimidation and retaliation, and extortion. HSI special agents will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to target MS-13 members and other transnational criminal street gangs that are a rising public safety threat in our communities."

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 Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland.

The 12-count indictment alleges that from prior to 2009 to February 2014, the defendants were members and associates of MS-13 who planned and committed murders, attempted murders, assaults and robberies in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Gang members also allegedly extorted high school students and brothel operators, committed witness tampering and obstructed justice, among other crimes.

More specifically, the indictment alleges three murders. On Jan. 10, 2011, Manjivar and several other MS-13 members repeatedly stabbed two individuals believed to be affiliated with the rival 18th Street gang, killing one and attempting to kill the other. On Aug. 28, 2012, Mejia-Ramos and others murdered a woman believed to be a rival gang member by shooting her in the head. On Feb. 23, 2013, Perez-Chach and another MS-13 member murdered a person believed to be a former MS-13 member who had testified in federal court against several other members in a prior federal racketeering prosecution in Maryland, attacking him with a knife and machete.

From January 2011 to December 2012, Manjivar, Hernandez, Beltran-Flores, Mejia-Ramos and other MS-13 members are alleged to have planned and/or participated in the attempted murder of four individuals believed to be affiliated with rival gangs including the 18th Street gang, Adelphi Crew, Latin Kings and Lewisdale Crew. One of these victims was targeted for murder to prevent him from testifying at trial in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County against defendant Argueta.

Additionally, the indictment alleges that Hernandez, Beltran-Flores, Argueta and other MS-13 members threatened to kill a fellow gang member unless he paid them a weekly or bi-weekly "rent" or "tax," which gang members collected from the victim from at least March to November 2011. Five others are alleged to have been assaulted, including one victim who was stabbed with a butterfly knife.

Moreno-Aguilar, Ortiz-Orellana, Marquez-Sanchez, Beltran-Flores, Mejia-Ramos, Perez-Chach and Manjivar face a maximum sentence of life in prison for conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise, and Hernandez and Argueta face 20 years in prison. Moreno-Aguilar and Ortiz-Orellana also face a maximum sentence of life in prison for murder in aid of racketeering; murder resulting in the use of a gun; and using a firearm during a crime of violence. Beltran-Flores also faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for using a firearm during a crime of violence and 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit witness tampering and for witness tampering by attempted murder. Hernandez had his initial appearance in federal court in Greenbelt March 12. The other defendants are expected to have their initial appearances beginning March 17.

This enforcement operation is part of HSI's Operation Community Shield Task Force. Operation Community Shield partners with existing federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to identify violent street gangs and develop intelligence on gang members and associates, gang criminal activities and international movements to arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members. HSI's National Gang Unit deters, disrupts and dismantles gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.

Since the inception of Operation Community Shield in February 2005, HSI special agents working in conjunction with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the nation have arrested more than 32,682 street gang members and associates linked to more than 2,400 different gangs. At least 42 percent of those arrested had a violent criminal history. More than 423 of those arrested were gang leaders, and more than 4,506 were MS-13 gang members or associates. Through this initiative, HSI has seized more than 5,389 firearms nationally.

The investigation was led by HSI Baltimore along with the Prince George's County and Montgomery County police departments, Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office, the Takoma Park Police Department and the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office. The Prince George's County Sheriff's Office and the Maryland Department of Corrections Intelligence Unit assisted in this investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S Attorneys William D. Moomau and Kevin L. Rosenberg, a trial attorney with the Justice Department Criminal Division's Organized Crime and Gang Section.

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.