A federal judge in the District of Maryland unsealed a superseding indictment today charging nine members of La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) with racketeering conspiracy involving murder, extortion and money laundering. MS-13 is an international criminal organization and one of the largest street gangs in the United States.
The superseding indictment charges Hernan Yanes-Rivera, 20; Franklyn Edgardo Sanchez, 24; Brayan Alexander Torres, 28; Agustino Eugenio Rivas Rodriguez, 24; Brian Samir Zelaya Mejia, 23; Miguel Angel Ramirez, 21; Jorge Isaac Argueta Chica, 21; and Diego Fabrisio Angel-Artiga, 22, with racketeering conspiracy. The superseding indictment also charges Yanes-Rivera, Torres, Rivas Rodriguez, Zelaya Mejia, Ramirez, Argueta Chica and Angel-Artiga with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion.
“MS-13 uses violence and intimidation to prey upon vulnerable communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Criminal Division is committed to dismantling MS-13 and protecting all communities from the harm alleged in this indictment.”
“Witness retaliation will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland. “As alleged in the superseding indictment unsealed today, these MS-13 members not only extorted money from community members to support the gang — both in Maryland and in El Salvador — they also allegedly killed an individual who was cooperating with law enforcement. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland and our local and state partners are working together to remove violent gang members to keep our communities safe from the threat of MS-13.”
According to court documents, in the United States, MS-13 is organized into branches or “cliques.” These defendants were allegedly members or associates of Weedams Locos Salvatrucha, an MS-13 clique operating primarily in the Adelphi, Maryland area. As alleged, the defendants extorted multiple victims, from whom they collected extortion payments, or “rent,” on a regular basis. Several of the defendants allegedly illicitly transferred this money to MS-13 associates in El Salvador.
The superseding indictment also alleges that Yanes-Rivera and Sanchez, acting at the direction of senior MS-13 members, murdered an individual in retaliation for the victim’s cooperation with law enforcement.
If convicted, the defendants face statutory maximums ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment for the racketeering conspiracy and 20 years for the extortion conspiracy. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and Prince George’s County Police Department are investigating the case. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Enforcement and Removal Operations and Montgomery County Police Department provided valuable assistance.
Trial Attorney Brendan Woods of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Baldwin and Joel Crespo of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.