Eight members of La Mara Salvatrucha, better known as MS-13, were found guilty of multiple racketeering charges by a federal jury today, after a 16-week trial. All defendants were members of the Plainfield Locos Salvatrucha (PLS) Clique of MS-13, with three serving as “First Word,” or leader.
Their sentencing is scheduled for September 17.
The guilty verdicts bring an end to a reign of violence and terror by this MS-13 gang. According to evidence presented at trial, from at least 2007 through September 2013, MS-13 members from the PLS Clique committed five murders. On February 9, 2009, Santos Reyes-Villatoro, acting as the leader of the PLS Clique, drove Julian Moz-Aguilar and other MS-13 members through the streets of Plainfield searching for rival gang members, eventually stopping at the Plainfield Train Station.
There, Moz-Aguilar used a firearm previously provided by Reyes-Villatoro to murder a victim who was believed to be a member of the Latin Kings, a rival gang. On Feb. 27, 2010, Mario Oliva, another MS-13 leader, drove a female gang member to an empty parking lot in Piscataway, New Jersey, and murdered her because she was suspected of working with law enforcement. He then fled the state of New Jersey with the assistance of Contreras and hid from law enforcement with the MS-13 Pinos Clique in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
On November 11, 2010, Hugo Palencia drove another MS-13 member to the area around Barack Obama Academy in Plainfield, where they encountered students challenging MS-13. Palencia pulled over, handed a firearm to another MS-13 member and instructed him to shoot at one of the individuals. The MS-13 member shot into the crowd, killing a bystander.
They weren’t finished. On January 10, 2011, Moz-Aguilar, Roberto Contreras and other MS-13 members were in a car when they spotted a suspected 18th Street gang member in front of a restaurant. Contreras stopped the vehicle and an MS-13 member exited, approached the suspected rival gang member and shot him in the head.
In May of that year they murdered a man who was caught socializing with 18th Street gang members. Flores and another MS-13 member cut the victim’s throat, beat him with a bat and stabbed him in the back 17 times. An MS-13 member involved in this murder fled New Jersey and was driven to Maryland soon after law enforcement began search for him.
Evidence at trial also showed that Garcia recruited and hired MS-13 members from the Maryland-based Pinos Clique to come to New Jersey and murder a woman in exchange for $40,000. The Pinos Clique members were arrested by authorities as they pulled into Plainfield.
After several MS-13 members were arrested in July 2011, Ramirez and Garcia used phones from inside the Union County, New Jersey, Jail to order the murder of three witnesses believed to be cooperating with police and responsible for their arrests.
According to evidence presented at trial, members of the PLS Clique were responsible for an attempted murder of suspected Latin King members near a car wash in Plainfield; the attempted murder of suspected Latin King members in January 2009; a machete attack in May 2011 and another in June 2011 on the train tracks passing through Plainfield; an attempted murder shooting in Plainfield in May 2011; and several other additional violent crimes including extortion, robbery and several weapons offenses.
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