WASHINGTON — Twenty-six alleged members of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have been charged in a superseding indictment that now charges 70 criminal counts, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Matthew Friedrich and U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced today. The initial indictment was filed on June 23, 2008, and charged 26 members of the violent gang MS-13 with federal racketeering and related crimes occurring in the United States and El Salvador.
According to the new criminal counts, Alejandro Enrique Ramirez Umana, a/k/a "Wizard" and "Lobo," intentionally killed brothers Ruben Garcia Salinas and Manuel Garcia Salinas on Dec. 8, 2007, in Guilford County, N.C., in aid of an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity. The Department filed a notice of intent today to seek the death penalty against Umana for the killing of these two individuals in aid of racketeering and during and in relation to a crime of violence. Also according to the additional criminal counts, Elvin Pastor Fernandez-Gradis, a/k/a "Tigre" and "Flaco," intentionally caused serious bodily injury that resulted in the death of Ulises Mayo on April 12, 2008, in Mecklenburg County, N.C., in aid of an enterprise engaged in racketeering activity.
The first superseding indictment, with an additional fifteen counts, was returned today by a federal grand jury in Charlotte, N.C., and alleges that the 26 defendants conspired to commit violent crimes in aid of racketeering, resulting in murder during the course of their alleged participation in a racketeering enterprise, MS-13, in the United States and El Salvador.
The superseding indictment also carries new charges including: use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison; use and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison or death; murder in aid of racketeering, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison or death; use and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence resulting in death, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison or death; accessory after the fact to murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison; reentry after deportation, which carries a maximum prison sentence of two years; felon in possession of a firearm, which carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison; illegal alien in possession of a firearm, which carries a maximum prison sentence of ten years; and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
As alleged in the superseding bill of indictment, the murders committed by MS-13 members occurred in Greensboro, N.C., and Charlotte. Those involved in the murders allegedly received assistance from other MS-13 members in avoiding detection from law enforcement. In addition, MS-13 members are alleged in the superseding indictment to have discussed plans to murder an individual who they believed was cooperating with law enforcement.
Those charged in the 70-count superseding indictment include: Umana; Fernandez-Gradis; Manuel de Jesus Ayala, a/k/a "Chacua"; Heverth Ulises Castellon, a/k/a "Misterio" and "Sailor"; Julio Cesar Rosales Lopez, a/k/a "Stiler"; Juan Gilberto Villalobos, a/k/a "Smoke" and "Smokey," "Juan Alberto Irias" and "Freddy"; Juan Ruben Vela Garcia, a/k/a "Mariachi"; Jose Amilcar Garcia-Bonilla, a/k/a "Psicopata," "Sicario" and "Lucio Caesario"; Yelson Olider Castro-Licona, a/k/a "Diablo"; Carlos Ferufino-Bonilla, a/k/a "Tigre"; Nelson Hernandez-Ayala, a/k/a "Sixteen"; Mario Melgar-Diaz, a/k/a "Nino"; Alexi Ricardo Ramos, a/k/a "Pajaro"; Carlos Roberto Figueroa-Pineda, a/k/a "Drogo"; Cesar Yoaldo Castillo, a/k/a "Chino"; Edgar Miguel Granados-Alvarez, a/k/a "Gorilon" and "Alexander Granados"; Michael Steven Mena, a/k/a "Cholo"; Johnny Elias Gonzalez, a/k/a "Solo"; Jaime Sandoval, a/k/a "Pelon"; Santos Canales-Reyes, a/k/a "Chicago"; Jose Efrain Ayala-Urbina, a/k/a "Peligroso"; Oscar Manuel Moral-Hernandez, a/k/a "Truchon"; Santos Anibal Caballero Fernandez, a/k/a "Garra"; Manuel Cruz, a/k/a "Silencioso"; Javier Molina, a/k/a "Big Psycho" and "Gringo"; and Mario Guajardo-Garcia, a/k/a "Speedy," "Iran Guerro-Gomez" and "Luis Angel Galindo." All of the defendants except for Ayala, Castro-Licona and Ferufino-Bonilla, who remain fugitives, are currently in federal custody where they have remained since being arrested on the original indictment charges in June 2008.
An indictment is merely an allegation. Defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.
The charges that resulted from the alleged conspiracy span two countries, three states, four federal districts and several North Carolina cities. The charges stem from a long-term investigation initiated by the FBI "Safe Streets" Gang Task Force from North Carolina, which is composed of the FBI; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department; and the Gastonia, N.C., Police Department. Additional law enforcement investigative support was provided by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, as well as the Greensboro Police Department and the Durham, N.C., Police Department. Substantial assistance has been afforded by the U.S. Marshals Service for the Western District of North Carolina; the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office; the Raleigh, N.C., Police Department; the Durham County Sheriff’s Office and the North Carolina Highway Patrol.
The FBI’s MS-13 National Gang Task Force played a significant role in coordinating the international aspects of this case, with additional critical assistance provided by the Transnational Anti-Gang (TAG) Center. TAG was created in 2007 by the Department of Justice, including the FBI’s MS-13 National Gang Task Force and the El Salvador National Civilian Police (PNC) with funding provided by the Department of State. TAG is comprised of experienced FBI anti-gang agents and PNC investigators in El Salvador. FBI anti-gang agents serve at the TAG center in San Salvador, side-by-side with PNC officers and analysts and El Salvadoran prosecutors, to combat transnational gang activity that affects the United States and countries in the Central American region.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Zolot, Jill Rose and Adam Morris from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina and Trial Attorney Sam Nazzaro from the Criminal Division’s Gang Squad Unit.