GREENBELT, Maryland – A federal jury today convicted three members of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, on racketeering and murder charges. Jorge Enrique Moreno-Aguilar, Juan Alberto Ortiz-Orellana, and Minor Perez-Chach face a maximum sentence of life in prison for conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise and a mandatory sentence of life in prison for murder in aid of racketeering.
All three defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and murder in aid of racketeering. Moreno-Aguilar and Ortiz-Orellana were each convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering. Ortiz-Orellana was also convicted of discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, and murder resulting from the brandishing/discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence. Perez-Chach was also convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by an alien and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon.
According to evidence presented at the three-week 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. Moreno-Aguilar and Ortiz-Orellana were members and associates of the MS-13 Sailors Locotes Salvatrucha Westside Clique and Perez-Chach was a member of the MS-13 Langley Park Salvatrucha Clique.
In January 2013, defendants Moreno-Aguilar and Ortiz-Orellana targeted an individual associated with the rival 18th Street gang, obtaining photographs of the victim from Facebook and conspiring to murder him with other members of MS-13. On March 12, 2013, Moreno-Aguilar and Ortiz-Orellana went to Capitol Heights, Maryland and Ortiz-Orellana shot the victim multiple times outside his home, killing him.
In the early morning hours of February 23, 2013, Perez-Chach met a man in a restaurant whom he believed to be a member of MS-13 who had previously testified against MS-13 members in federal trials in Greenbelt, Maryland. In fact, the victim was not the witness from the previous MS-13 trials, according to trial evidence. Perez-Chach followed the victim to his home in Hyattsville, Maryland where he stabbed the victim to death while another member of MS-13 attacked the victim with a machete. During his arrest on May 20, 2013, Perez-Chach was found in illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Moreno-Aguilar and Ortiz-Orellana also face a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering. Ortiz-Orellana also faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison for murder resulting from the use and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence; and a minimum of 10 years for discharging of a firearm during a crime of violence. Perez-Chach also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for being a felon in possession of firearm and ammunition, and 10 years for being an alien in possession of firearm or ammunition. Moreno-Aguilar was acquitted of brandishing/discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, and murder resulting from the brandishing/discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence.
In addition to these convictions, 8 of the other 13 defendants charged in this investigation have pleaded guilty to their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.
MS-13 is a transnational criminal organization 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.
The investigation was led by Homeland Security Investigations special agents out of Baltimore and supported by the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Prince George’s County Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney, and Montgomery County State’s Attorney.