Seventeen alleged members and associates of the MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) gang were indicted by a grand jury today on various charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and drug trafficking throughout the United States. All defendants face up to 25 years to life in prison.
The indictment is the result of an investigation by the DEA and other agencies that begin in May of 2017 into the alleged criminal activities of several MS-13 members. Investigators identified MS-13 operations, or “cliques,” in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Texas.
MS-13 leaders in El-Salvador allegedly directed the leaders of the “Hollywood” and “Sailors” cliques based on Long Island in Hempstead, Freeport, Roosevelt, Uniondale, Glen Cove, Greenport, Central Islip and elsewhere. These cliques then sent them the proceeds of their criminal activities. Based on the evidence acquired during this investigation, the gang also has affiliates operating around the world in places such as Mexico, Colombia, South Korea, France, Australia, Peru, Egypt, Ecuador and Cuba.
“A local drug investigation led to unveiling ruthless MS-13 cliques responsible for murder, assaults and drug trafficking in our backyard,” DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James Hunt stated. “MS-13 gang’s mission is to control our towns through brutal violence, but today we took that control away from them. Not only did we arrest the highest-level Mara Salvatrucha leader in the Northeast who reports to MS-13 in El Salvador, but we sent a message that we will continue to investigate their violent crimes and bring justice to their victims.”
15-year-old mutilated with machete
To establish gang supremacy, MS-13 members allegedly murdered of rivals and implemented of severe punishments of members who failed to follow the group’s protocols. These violent acts were sanctioned at the direction of MS-13 leaders. The indictment charges that members agreed to kill and inflict punishment on disloyal members who cooperated with law enforcement or tried to leave the gang.
Among these heinous murders, prosecutors allege, is the one committed by David “Risky” Sosa Guevara and Victor Lopez. They are accused of brutally murdering 15-year-old Angel Soler on July 21, 2017, in Nassau County. The boy’s body was mutilated, bearing injuries consistent with the use of a machete, and he suffered blunt force trauma to the head. He was left buried with cement poured over his body until his remains were discovered on October 19 in a remote wooden area in Roosevelt, just south of the Southern State Parkway.
Murder, murder, murder
On three separate occasions, there would’ve been more bloodshed if the defendants had their way. These murders were to take place in Nassau County, New York, Elizabeth, New Jersey and Prince George’s County, Maryland, but the attempts were thwarted by law enforcement officials, thereby saving lives.
The first such attempt occurred on July 19, 2017, when defendants Kevin “Creeper” Cuevas Del Cid and Augustine “Olvidado” Benitez tried to lure a victim into the woods in the Roosevelt/Freeport, NY area with the promise of marijuana – and intended to kill him. The following day, working with NCPD and Homeland Security, Cuevas Del Cid was apprehended and detained in the Glen Cove area at his landscaping job.
On September 26, 2017, one high-ranking defendant allegedly instructed Ever “Lenky” Morales Lopez to meet Edgar “Chavi” Orellana Saravia in Elizabeth, New Jersey. They were allegedly sent to do reconnaissance – including choosing a suitable location to commit the murder of a rival gang member and determining if cameras were nearby. The pair allegedly discussed where to dispose the victim’s body and how deep to dig the hole. Working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Lopez and Saravia were apprehended in New Jersey on September 30, 2017.
On September 29, 2017, a gang member allegedly instructed “Olvidado” to recruit members of their clique on Long Island to kill another individual in Maryland, who was believed was cooperating with law enforcement. Working with law enforcement in Maryland the murder was thwarted.
Dealing drugs and death
Although this case began as a narcotic trafficking investigation, the MS-13 gang’s proclivity for violence was quickly realized, and the investigation adapted accordingly. Nevertheless, it was clear that the heroin and cocaine trafficking were profitable to the gang and necessary for the group’s existence.
This 7-month long investigation revealed that kilograms of heroin were allegedly moved internationally by the Sailors Clique regional director of the Eastern United States and his associate who conducted business from a Mississippi prison. Approximately 4 kilograms of heroin were seized, with evidence of additional kilograms reaching U.S. soil and being distributed by the gang at the kilogram level, the street value of which is approximately a million dollars.
Multiple counts in the indictment allege the trafficking of heroin and cocaine for profit. Several of the defendants trafficked drugs in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Bronx County, New York; Baltimore, Maryland; Long Branch, New Jersey; and Jefferson County, Texas. Cocaine, packaging materials, a loaded firearm, a large hunting knife, machete, as well as ledger books and gang paraphernalia were seized during the investigation.
Additionally, based on information gathered in this case, the NCDA assisted law enforcement in Prince George’s County, Maryland, with the arrest of individuals for two murders. On June 1, 2017, alleged members of the MS-13 Sailor Clique in the Langley Park, Maryland, area shot and killed William Hermones Canales, an El Salvadorian National, during a random street encounter in Prince Georges County, Maryland.
The DEA and NCDA learned about the shooting and subsequent escape, and learned of the whereabouts of the perpetrators and the efforts that were taken by gang members to relocate the individuals responsible for the homicide. On June 5, 2017, Prince George’s County Police Department, with the assistance of the DEA and FBI, executed a state search warrant, and arrest warrants, and arrested four alleged MS-13 suspects in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Rolando “Virus” Aristides Juarez-Vazquez was charged with 1st and 2nd Degree Murder; Jimmy “Duchy” Alexander Villalobos-Gomez and Omar “Inframundo” Alexis Iglesias-Gamero were charged with Accessory After the Fact; and Omar “Media Vida” Alexi Campos was charged with Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana and Harboring a Fugitive with the Intent to Prevent His Discovery and Arrest. All four arrested are alleged to be MS-13 gang members and are El Salvadorian Nationals.
On September 16, 2017, three alleged MS-13 members of the Sailors Clique murdered a rival gang member in Riverdale, Maryland. Kevin “Brosha” Alexander Soriana-Hernandez, an El Salvadorian National; Carlos “Perrico” Daniel Cardenas-Banegas, a Honduran National; and Wilfredo “Torro” Cardenas-Banegas, a Honduran National, were arrested by members of the Prince George’s County Police Department and DEA based on intelligence gathered by the NCDA.
Kill, rape, and control (the world)
“This massive multi-agency investigation laid bare the global size, complexity, and brutality of MS-13, and these indictments strike a heavy blow to the gang’s operations on Long Island,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. “These alleged gang members have terrorized vulnerable immigrant communities, trafficked deadly heroin into our neighborhoods, and this coalition of more than 22 agencies nationwide will continue to be unrelenting in our efforts to dismantle MS-13.”
“This case is part of a bigger and extremely important multi-agency push to rid Long Island of MS-13. Our FBI Long Island Gang Task Force is working every day with our members, which include Suffolk County Police Department, Nassau County Police Department, Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, New York State Police, Rockville Center Police, Hempstead Police, Suffolk County Probation, ATF and HSI, along with our Safe Streets Task Forces across the country, and internationally with our task force in El Salvador, and we are having a significant impact on their violence. MS-13 members kill for no reason, but we are not going to let it continue,” said William F. Sweeney, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI New York Field Office.
“It is no secret that the MS-13’s motto is kill, rape, and control. When you look at the charges against these individuals today, it shows that they stay true to their ruthless ways, and will fund their gang activities by any means,” said Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent in Charge of HSI New York. “It is imperative that law enforcement continues to share intelligence and resources as we continue efforts to disrupt and dismantle the nefarious MS-13 gang.”
New York City’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said, “I commend the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, the DEA’s Long Island District Office and all of the agencies involved in this investigation for working together to combat gang violence and drug trafficking associated with MS-13. The scope of this case, in which members of various MS-13 cliques travelled between Maryland and New York to engage in criminal activity, underscores the importance of local and federal law enforcement partnerships and collaboration.”
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