NEW YORK — An indictment including high-ranking member of the Governing “Table” of the L.A. Program of MS-13 from New York, California, Virginia, and Tennessee was unsealed Wednesday following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) working in coordination with HSI field offices in Los Angeles, Nashville, DC/Virginia, and Charlotte.
The indictment out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) charges Amilcar Romero, a/k/a “Soldado,” Jaime Santana, a/k/a “Smiley,” Jose Garcia, a/k/a “Tricky,” and Alexander Rivera, a/k/a “Extrano,” with racketeering conspiracy and narcotics distribution conspiracy. Cristian Guerrero-Melgares, a/k/a “Enigma,” and Gustavo Llevano-Rivera are charged in the narcotics conspiracy count. Several defendants also face firearms charges.
Garcia, Guerrero-Melgares and Rivera were arrested Wednesday. Santana was arrested Tuesday night in Tennessee. Romero is currently in state custody in California on other charges and will be transferred to federal custody in New York and presented at a later date. Llevano-Rivera remains at large.
“Targeting gangs and crews, and preventing the violence so often associated with their illegal activities, continues to be among the highest priorities for the NYPD and our law enforcement partners. By precisely targeting the relatively small percentage of individuals responsible for committing much of the violence in New York, we are making the safest large city in America even safer. We remain relentless in our efforts to identify, arrest, and prosecute anyone who allegedly involves themselves in such criminal behavior,” said NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill.
“The defendants in this case include alleged leaders of the L.A. Program of MS-13, operating across the United States. They and their co-defendants are alleged to have engaged in acts of violence, narcotics distribution, and the use of firearms. Thanks to our remarkable partners at HSI and the NYPD, the defendants now face federal charges for these very serious crimes,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.
According to the allegations in the indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court as well as court filings, Romero, Santana, Garcia, and Rivera are members of a transnational racketeering enterprise known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, which operates throughout North and Central America, including in El Salvador, Mexico, New York, California, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. To enrich the enterprise, protect and expand its criminal operations, enforce discipline among its members, and retaliate against members of rival gangs, members and associates of MS-13 committed, conspired, attempted, and threatened to commit acts of violence; distributed and possessed with intent to distribute narcotics, including methamphetamine and cocaine; and obtained, possessed and used firearms.
MS-13 is organized into chapters called “cliques.” Groups of cliques, in turn, are aligned as “programs.” Each program is governed by a group of senior gang leaders known as the “table.” Romero, Santana, and Garcia are high-ranking members of the table of the “L.A. Program” of MS-13.
Romero, 50, Santana, 39, Garcia, 31, and Rivera, 31, are charged with one count of racketeering conspiracy, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison. Those four defendants, as well as Guerrero-Melgares, 32, and Llevano-Rivera, 23, are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute: (i) 50 grams and more of methamphetamine, (ii) 500 grams and more of mixtures and substances containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, and (iii) mixtures and substances containing a detectable amount of cocaine, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison, and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Santana, Garcia, and Guerrero-Melgares are charged with possessing, carrying, and using firearms during, in relation to, and in furtherance of, the narcotics conspiracy, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison, and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Santana and Rivera are charged with possessing firearms while unlawfully or illegally in the United States, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
This case is being handled by SDNY’s Violent & Organized Crime Unit. The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.