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Transnational Gangs
05/05/2011

MS-13 member sentenced to 2 years in prison for felony threats to silence witness

Defendant is among 11 people indicted for gang-related crimes

WASHINGTON - Henry Saravia, 21, also known as "Flaco," a member of the MS-13 gang, was sentenced today to two years in prison and three years of supervised release for threatening to injure a victim in connection with a gang-related home invasion in Washington in 2009. The sentence is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

According to the government's evidence, Saravia's crimes took place in the aftermath of an armed home invasion on Dec. 11, 2009 in Northwest, Washington, D.C.

Five other members or associates of MS-13 planned and committed the invasion of the home on Taylor Street. At that time, the house's basement was being used as a bordello, which was operated by the victim in this case. The MS-13 members intended to rob the individuals affiliated with the bordello, including the victim, and to force them to begin paying extortion money to MS-13, a practice commonly referred to within MS-13 as "collecting rent."

After arriving at the bordello, four of the MS-13 members entered the house, armed with a loaded gun and a knife, and robbed and restrained five individuals inside. Two gang members assaulted and attempted to sexually abuse one of these individuals. The victim, a 35-year-old man, arrived at the entrance to the bordello while the crimes were in progress, but did not enter the bordello. The victim fled from the house when someone chased him.

The police eventually arrived and arrested three of the five MS-13 perpetrators that night. The two other perpetrators fled the scene that night, but were eventually identified after an extensive investigation, and arrested in April 2010.

Saravia, who was not present at the home invasion, eventually learned that MS-13 members had been arrested and detained because of their participation. Saravia knew the victim and that he operated the bordello. On or about Dec. 18, 2009, Saravia began calling people affiliated with the bordello, including the victim. Saravia told the victim and another bordello associate not to go to court to testify against the MS-13 members who had been arrested for the home invasion, and told the victim not to report anything to the police.

Saravia also told the victim that someone had offered to pay him to hurt the victim, but Saravia did not need money to hurt him, because he "loves" and "lives" for MS-13. He threatened to 'beat the [expletive] out of' the victim if he did not pay rent to MS-13. All told, Saravia called the victim or the victim's girlfriend at least three times between Dec. 18, 2009, and April 2010 to threaten the victim and coerce him to pay rent to MS-13. Despite his intimidating conduct, Saravia did not injure the victim or the others he threatened.

After a months-long investigation, Saravia was identified as the individual who had threatened the victim. Saravia, who had no fixed address, was arrested in April 2010, and had been detained without bond until his sentencing. Saravia pled guilty in February 2011 to a charge of threatening to injure or kidnap a person.

This investigation was led by ICE HSI with the assistance of the Metropolitan Police Department.

Across the nation, trans-national street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-national members and many times are involved in a variety of crimes including human smuggling and trafficking; narcotics smuggling and distribution; identity theft and benefit fraud; money laundering and bulk cash smuggling; weapons smuggling and arms trafficking; cyber crimes; export violations; and other crimes with a nexus to the border.

Like any street gang, these transnational gangs also have a propensity toward violence. In the Northern Virginia area, gang members are most likely to commit violent crimes directed towards other gang members and engage in assault and property crimes.

The National Gang Unit at ICE identifies violent street gangs and develops intelligence on their membership, associates, criminal activities and international movements to deter, disrupt and dismantle gang operations by tracing and seizing cash, weapons and other assets derived from criminal activities.

Operation Community Shield partners with existing federal, state and local anti-gang efforts to share intelligence on gang organizations and their leadership, share resources and combine legal authorities to arrest, prosecute, imprison and/or deport transnational gang members.

Since inception through Sept. 1, 2009, ICE agents working in conjunction with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies nationwide have arrested 18,925 street gang members and associates. These apprehensions include 8,575 criminal arrests and 10,350 administrative immigration arrests. 226 of those arrested were gang leaders and 3,219 were MS-13 members or associates and 6,831 of the arrested suspects had violent criminal histories. Through this initiative, ICE has seized 1,310 firearms

For more information, visit www.ice.gov.