GREENBELT, Maryland – An MS-13 gang member convicted of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise, murder in aid of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in the aid of racketeering was sentenced Aug. 8 to life in prison by a federal judge.
Jorge Moreno-Aguilar, 24, was the fifth defendant arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the course of a major counter-gang operation known as Broken Silence to be sentenced to life in prison. Ten additional gang members apprehended by the agency’s Homeland Security Investigations component during the same Maryland-area effort have pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from 7-30 years in prison.
The sentence was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning; Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of ICE-HSI; Chief Henry P. Stawinski III of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.
“HSI agents are dedicated to investigating and arresting MS-13 gang members and reducing the significant public safety threat to the Maryland-area communities we’ve been sworn to protect,” Watson said. “HSI will continue to work closely with all of our law enforcement partners and external stakeholders in the crackdown on violent MS-13 activities in an effort to disrupt and dismantle their transnational criminal organization.”
MS-13 is a national and transnational 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 Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, and Frederick County, Maryland. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the gang. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible.
According to evidence presented at trial, from at least 2009 through October 2014, MS-13 members planned and committed murders, attempted murders, assaults, and robberies in Prince George’s, Montgomery, and Frederick Counties. Gang members also extorted brothel operators and owners of other illegal businesses and tampered with and retaliated against witnesses, among other crimes.
According to the trial evidence, in January 2013, Moreno-Aguilar and co-defendant Juan Alberto Ortiz-Orellana, 29, both members of the MS-13 Sailors Locotes Salvatrucha Westside Clique, targeted an individual associated with the rival 18th Street gang, obtained photographs of the victim from Facebook and conspired with other members of MS-13 to murder him. On March 12, 2013, Moreno-Aguilar and Ortiz-Orellana went to Capitol Heights, Maryland, and shot the victim multiple times outside his home, killing him.
In addition, trial evidence showed that on February 23, 2013, co-defendant Minor Perez-Chach, 26, who was a member of the MS-13 Langley Park Salvatrucha (LPS) Clique, followed a man whom he believed to be a member of MS-13 who had testified against MS-13 members in federal trials in Greenbelt, Maryland. In fact, the evidence showed that the victim was not the witness from the previous MS-13 trials. Perez-Chach stabbed the victim to death in his home while another member of MS-13 attacked the victim with a machete. During his arrest on May 20, 2013, Perez-Chach also illegally possessed a firearm and ammunition.
Co-defendants Ortiz-Orellana of District Heights, Maryland; and Perez-Chach of Hyattsville, Maryland, were convicted on various racketeering and murder charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment on December 1, 2016.
Acting United States Attorney Stephen M. Schenning commended HSI Baltimore, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, and Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties State’s Attorney’s Offices for their work in the investigation and proceedings. Mr. Schenning thanked Assistant United States Attorneys William D. Moomau and Lindsay Kaplan as well as Trial Attorney Catherine K. Dick with the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who prosecuted the case.