SAN FRANCISCO – The sixth San Francisco-area member of La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) was sentenced Thursday to life in prison following his conviction earlier this year on racketeering-related charges stemming from a multi-agency probe spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Guillermo Herrera, aka "Sparky," 21, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William Alsup. Herrera and his five codefendants were convicted by a jury on Aug. 30 after a five-month trial. Codefendants Marvin Carcamo, aka "Cyco", 31; Angel Noel Guevara, aka "Peloncito", 31; Moris Flores, aka "Slow Pain", 22; Erick Lopez, aka "Spooky", 23; and Jonathon Cruz-Ramirez, aka "Soldado", 22; were all sentenced to life in prison Nov. 30.
"Hopefully these sentences help to bring closure to the victims and family members who suffered needlessly from the senseless acts of violence that these individuals committed," U.S. Attorney Haag said. "These individuals terrorized a community. For their crimes, they will spend the rest of their lives behind bars."
"Mr. Herrera and his fellow MS-13 gang members spread fear and violence throughout the Bay Area," said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. "They committed horrific acts of assault and murder on behalf of their criminal enterprise. Today's sentence marks another important step forward in our steadfast efforts to protect Americans from violent crime."
"While nothing can make amends for the suffering this defendant and his fellow gang members caused, the court's actions ensure these cold-blooded criminals will never again be able to hold our communities hostage to fear," said Clark Settles, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in San Francisco. "And though this longstanding case is drawing to a close, HSI's efforts are ongoing as we continue to work closely with local law enforcement to identify, attack and dismantle transnational street gangs that are attempting to stake out turf in the Bay Area."
According to evidence presented at trial, Herrera was a member of the 20th street clique of MS-13, a violent, transnational gang. The evidence showed the 20th street clique, which had operated in the San Francisco's Mission District since the 1990s, grew more violent and aggressive as membership increased and the gang expanded. The 20th street clique primarily warred with rival gang members, but also engaged in extortion and narcotics distribution. Herrera joined the 20th street clique of MS-13 in 2007 and participated in the extortion, or "taxing" individuals who sold fraudulent documents on MS-13 turf. MS-13 members demanded a portion of the profits these individuals earned and used violence and threats of violence to obtain their percentage.
Evidence presented at the trial showed that on July 11, 2008, Herrera shot and killed Armando Estrada, one of many individuals MS-13 extorted. Cruz-Ramirez drove Herrera to 20th and Mission streets, where Herrera spotted Estrada, chased him, and shot him in the back of the head at close range with a shotgun. The motive for the murder was for MS-13 to maintain control over the group it extorted, a group that had resisted 20th street members the previous day. Both Cruz-Ramirez and Herrera were convicted of the racketeering murder of Armando Estrada.
On Nov. 29, in a separate trial, a jury convicted 20th street member Danilo Velasquez of multiple racketeering offenses. Velasquez's codefendant, Luis Herrera, aka "Killer," and brother of Guillermo Herrera, pleaded guilty mid-trial to seven racketeering related counts, including use of a firearm causing the murder of Moises Frias. Luis Herrera is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 24, 2012. Velasquez is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 14, 2012, and faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
These cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wil Frentzen, Andrew M. Scoble, David Hall, and W.S. Wilson Leung of the Strike Force and Violent Crimes Section of the Northern District of California, and Trial Attorney Theryn G. Gibbons of the Organized Crime and Gang Section of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, with the assistance of legal assistants and paralegals Kevin Costello, Christine Tian, Marina Ponomarchuk, and Ponly Tu. The case was investigated by ICE HSI's San Francisco Gang Unit, with the assistance of the San Francisco and Daly City, Calif., police departments.