GREENBELT, Md. — A Honduran national residing in Hyattsville, Md., was sentenced Wednesday to 18 months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, for illegal re-entry after having been deported from the United States.
Hector Daniel Villanueva-Cortes, aka Muertito, 23, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus. Judge Titus enhanced Villanueva-Cortes' sentence upon finding that he was a member of the Mara Salvatruchas gang, commonly known as MS-13.
The sentencing follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Prince George's County Police Department.
According to Villanueva-Cortes' plea agreement and other court documents, Villanueva-Cortes initially entered the United States illegally June 2004, and was deported back to Honduras April 2010. He illegally re-entered the United States sometime before May, when he was found by HSI special agents and Prince George's County Police officers at a residence in Hyattsville in the company of a known MS-13 gang member. A search of the residence revealed evidence of gang activity. Additional investigation revealed that Villanueva-Cortes is a high ranking member of the Sailors Lokotes Westside Salvatruchas (SLWS), a clique of the MS-13 gang located in southern Maryland. Prior to May 20, Prince George's County Police officers had encountered Villanueva-Cortes on several occasions with other known MS-13 members.
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's goal is to deter, disrupt and dismantle 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 nationwide 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 national initiative, HSI has seized more than 4,597 firearms.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly O. Hayes and William D. Moomau.