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Transnational Gangs

MS-13 member sentenced to 15 years for illegally re-entering US, possessing gun

BALTIMORE — A native of El Salvador residing in Baltimore was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, for illegally re-entering the United States and being a felon in possession of a gun and ammunition.

The sentence resulted from an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the Baltimore Police Department.

Police arrested Carlos Romero, 22, in the early morning hours of June 8, 2011, after they saw a truck, in which Romero was a passenger, spin "donuts" and squeal wheels at an intersection. After stopping the truck, police asked the driver for his license and registration. When the driver opened the glove box to retrieve the registration, police saw the butt of a revolver. The driver was removed from the vehicle and handcuffed. As the officers removed Romero from the truck, a bullet slipped out of his pocket, and police found another bullet in Romero's pocket after he exited the truck. Officers retrieved the gun, a .38 special, loaded with .38-special caliber ammunition. This is the same ammunition found in Romero's pocket. Additional ammunition was recovered from the passenger side floorboard of the truck, along with one spent cartridge casing of the same ammunition.

Witnesses at the two-day trial testified that Romero was deported from the United States in April 2010 and had not applied for, nor received permission, to return. Another witness testified that a few hours prior to his arrest, Romero had threatened to cut out the witness' tongue for talking to police about a March 2011 shooting at the bar where the witness worked. The perpetrator of the March 2011 shooting was a fellow MS-13 gang member. After Romero's threat, the witness contacted a Baltimore Police detective and identified Romero in a photo lineup as the man who had threatened him.

This investigation was part of HSI's Operation Community Shield initiative. 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 30,672 street gang members and associates linked to more than 2,300 different gangs. At least 40 percent of those arrested had a violent criminal history. More than 394 of those arrested were gang leaders, and more than 4,265 were MS-13 gang members or associates. Through this initiative, HSI has seized more than 4,597 firearms nationally.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin S. Herring in the District of Maryland.