United States Flag
Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security

Report Crimes: Email or Call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE

Transnational Gangs
03/31/2008

MS-13 gang member sentenced to 27 years in prison on racketeering charges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A member of the violent La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang was sentenced Monday to 27 years in prison for his participation in a racketeering enterprise. The sentencing was announced by Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney Edward M. Yarbrough for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Walter Hernandez, aka "Spanky," was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell of the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville to 27 years in federal prison. Judge Campbell also ordered Hernandez to serve five years of supervised release.

At his plea hearing Jan. 29, 2008, Hernandez admitted that he and others involved in the MS-13 gang conspired to participate in a pattern of racketeering activity in the Nashville metropolitan area, including murder and attempted murder. In addition, Hernandez admitted that on Jan. 20, 2006, he and another gang member were involved in a dispute with two men from a rival gang that resulted in Hernandez shooting one of the men. The shooting victim later died from his injuries.

Hernandez is the fourth defendant to be sentenced on Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges stemming from an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2007. That indictment charged 14 members of MS-13 with conspiring to participate in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise and related charges, including murder, attempted murder, assault, weapons charges and obstruction of justice.

Defendant Jose Alfaro, aka "Liche," was sentenced Dec. 10, 2007, to 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release. Defendant Henry Garaballo Vasquez, aka "Cuero," was sentenced Dec. 4, 2007, to 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release. Defendant Geovanni Pena, aka "Rata," was sentenced Nov. 20, 2007, to 135 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Trial for the remaining defendants is scheduled to begin Aug. 5.

The MS-13 street gang is a violent international criminal organization. The purpose of the racketeering enterprise was to preserve and protect the power, territory and profits of the MS-13 gang through assault, murder, threats of violence and intimidation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jimmie Lynn Ramsaur of the Middle District of Tennessee and trial attorneys David Jaffe and John Han of the Department of Justice Criminal Division's Gang Squad

The case was investigated by the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department's Gang Suppression Unit; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the Davidson County District Attorney General's Office; the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Middle District of Tennessee and the Department of Justice Criminal Division's Gang Squad.