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February 24, 2023Washington, DC, United StatesTransnational Gangs

Homeland Security Investigations announces indictment of 3 MS-13 leaders on terrorism, racketeering charges

WASHINGTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) joined the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and other Joint Task Force Vulcan partners in announcing the arrest and subsequent indictment charging three of MS-13’s highest ranking leaders on Feb. 23. Joint Task Force Vulcan is a coordinated effort between government agencies to dismantle the violent gang.

The four-count indictment was unsealed in federal court in Central Islip, New York, charging the defendants with directing MS-13’s criminal activities in the United States, El Salvador, Mexico and elsewhere over the past two decades, specifically charging them with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to provide or conceal material support to terrorists and narco-terrorism conspiracy.

“As a member of Joint Task Force Vulcan, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements’ Homeland Security Investigations is committed to protecting national security and the communities we serve against transnational criminal organizations,” said ICE’s Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tae D. Johnson. “With our broad legal authorities and ability to investigate a wide spectrum of crimes, our HSI special agents will continue to maximize global efforts that detect, deter, disrupt, and dismantle criminal syndicates like MS-13 and those who propagate associated illicit operations.”

On Feb. 22, Mexican authorities located Vladimir Antonio Arevalo-Chavez, aka Vampiro de Monserrat Criminales; Walter Yovani Hernandez-Rivera, aka Baxter de Park View and Bastard de Park View; and Marlon Antonio Menjivar-Portillo, aka Rojo de Park View, and expelled them from Mexico via the United States. When the three arrived at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) arrested them. Earlier today, the defendants attended their initial appearances in the Southern District of Texas, pending removal to the Eastern District of New York.

Four co-defendants, Jose Wilfredo Ayala-Alcantara, aka Indio de Hollywood; Jorge Alexander De La Cruz, aka Cruger de Peatonales; Juan Antonio Martinez-Abrego, aka Mary Jane de Hollywood; and Francisco Javier Roman-Bardales, aka Veterano de Tribus, remain at large.

“Today’s action makes clear that there is no hiding place anywhere in the world for the leaders of violent gangs that terrorize American communities,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The Justice Department will continue to use the full force of our law enforcement authorities to disrupt and dismantle MS-13 and other transnational criminal organizations and hold their leaders accountable.”

“The FBI will continue to vigorously investigate and hold transnational organized groups like MS-13 and their leaders accountable for the continued violent and terrorist criminal activities they orchestrate,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Today’s indictment demonstrates the FBI’s reach and commitment to seeking justice against those individuals who jeopardize American lives and liberty. We will never stop working in coordination with our international partners to protect our respective citizens from MS-13 and other gangs wherever they are.”

“The relentless and heroic efforts of law enforcement here and in Central America are systemically dismantling the MS-13 the very top to bottom, and we will not stop until this transnational gang and it’s leaders are held accountable for the extreme violence they have inflicted on our district, the United States and the countries where this scourge is based,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York.

Members of the public with information concerning their whereabouts are strongly encouraged to contact HSI at 866-347-2423 or via the online tip form. They can also call the FBI’s toll-free MS-13 tip line at 866-787-6713. Together, HSI and the FBI have offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the four fugitives.

Six other co-defendants, Edwin Ernesto Cedillos-Rodriguez, aka Renuente de Abriles Dangers; Carlos Tiberio Ramirez-Valladares, aka Snayder de Pasadena; Dany Fredy Ramos-Mejia, aka Cisco de Teclas; Dany Balmore Romero-Garcia, aka Big Boy de Normandies, Dig Boy de Normandies and D Boy de Normandies; Ruben Antonio Rosa-Lovo, aka Chivo de Centrales; and Miguel Angel Serrano-Medina, aka Cabro de Park View, are believed to be in custody in El Salvador. The United States will explore options for their extradition with the government of El Salvador.

As set forth in court filings, the 13 defendants are part of MS-13’s command and control structure, consisting of the Ranfla Nacional, Ranfla en Las Calles and Ranfla en Los Penales, and play significant leadership roles in the organization’s operations in El Salvador, Mexico, the United States and throughout the world. In the related case of United States v. Henriquez, et al., a grand jury in the Eastern District of New York previously indicted 14 members of the Ranfla Nacional, who functioned as MS-13’s “Board of Directors.” Formal extradition packages submitted by the United States remain pending for 12 of those defendants, who are or were in El Salvador custody.

As further alleged, the defendants have engaged in a litany of violent terrorist activities aimed at influencing the government of El Salvador policy and to obtain benefits and concessions from the government; targeting law enforcement and military officials; employing terrorist tactics such as the use of improvised explosive devices and grenades; operating military-style training camps for firearms and explosives; using public displays of violence to intimidate civilian populations; using violence to obtain and control territory; and manipulating the electoral process in El Salvador. Several of these defendants have played prominent roles in MS-13’s past and current negotiations with the government of El Salvador.

Further, these defendants authorized and directed violence in the United States, Mexico and elsewhere as part of a concerted effort to expand MS-13’s influence and territorial control. As the leaders of the MS-13 transnational criminal organization, these defendants were an integral part of the leadership chain responsible for supervising MS-13 cliques in the United States that engaged in extreme violence, including countless murders, attempted murders, assaults and related offenses. For example, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York’s has prosecuted hundreds of MS-13 leaders, members and associates for carrying out with more than 65 murders in the Eastern District of New York between 2009 and the present.

Several of these defendants, including Arevalo-Chavez, Hernandez-Rivera, and Menjivar-Portillo, coordinated MS-13’s expansion into Mexico (the Mexico Program), at the direction of the Ranfla Nacional, which was a coordinated effort to maintain MS-13’s continuity of operations in response to law enforcement pressure previously exerted by the United States and the government of El Salvador. Additionally, the Mexico Program included forging alliances with Mexican cartels and engaged in narcotics trafficking, immigrant smuggling and extortion, kidnappings and weapons trafficking. As alleged in the indictment, the MS-13’s Mexico Program murdered some migrants bound for the United States, including suspected members of the rival 18th Street gang and MS-13 members attempting to flee MS-13 in El Salvador without permission. Finally, drug trafficking was an important part of MS-13’s money-making operation, especially in Mexico, and the defendants used MS-13’s large membership in the United States generate financial support for MS-13’s terrorist activities in El Salvador.

Since its creation in August 2019, Joint Task Force Vulcan has successfully implemented a whole-of-government approach to combatting MS-13, including increasing coordination and collaboration with foreign law enforcement partners, including El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala; designating priority MS-13 programs, cliques and leaders who have the most impact on the United States for targeted prosecutions; and coordinating significant MS-13 indictments in U.S. attorney’s offices across the country, including the first use of national security charges against MS-13 leaders.

HSI plays a critical role in Joint Task Force Vulcan, which is comprised of members from U.S. attorney’s offices across the country, including the Eastern District of New York; the District of New Jersey; the Northern District of Ohio; the District of Utah; the District of Massachusetts; the Eastern District of Texas; the Southern District of New York; the Eastern District of Virginia; the Southern District of Florida; the Southern District of California; the District of Nevada; the District of Alaska; and the District of Columbia, as well as the Department of Justice’s National Security Division and the Criminal Division. In addition, all Department of Justice law enforcement agencies are involved in the effort, including the FBI; the DEA; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals Service; and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

The FBI Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Newark and Houston field offices investigated the case with critical support provided by the FBI Criminal Investigative Division’s Safe Streets Gang Unit and HSI’s National Gangs and Violent Crime Unit, which spearheaded this investigation. Additionally, FBI Mexico, HSI Mexico and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers and Area Port Director Shawn Polley at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston provided critical support in connection with the arrests.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul G. Scotti, Justina L. Geraci and Megan E. Farrell for Eastern District of New York, and U.S. Attorneys James Donnelly, Matthew Shepherd and Stewart Young for Joint Task Force Vulcan prosecuted the case.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.