WASHINGTON – Five alleged MS-13 leaders, including two accused of directing operations from prisons in El Salvador, have been indicted on federal racketeering and other charges for murders and other violent crimes in the Washington, D.C., area.
The charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. of the District of Columbia, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
The 32-count superseding indictment, which was returned on Nov. 1, 2011, and unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, charges various defendants with taking part in a racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, kidnapping in aid of racketeering, assault with a deadly weapon in aid of racketeering and other offenses.
The superseding indictment adds a total of six new defendants and expands upon earlier indictments returned since last year against numerous individuals for racketeering and other crimes. The indictment alleges that five new defendants were members of MS-13 at the time of the offenses and that two were international leaders directing and supervising operations of D.C.-based cliques from prisons in El Salvador.
These defendants include: Moises Humberto Rivera-Luna, also known as Santos, 42, who is currently incarcerated in El Salvador; Marvin Geovanny Monterrosa-Larios, 39, also incarcerated in El Salvador; Dennis L. Gil-Bernardez, also known as Pando, 35, currently serving a federal prison sentence for other crimes; Tokiro Rodas Ramirez also known as Perverso, 29, of El Salvador; and Juan Melgar-Hernandez, also known as Triste, 26, of Silver Spring, Md.
If convicted of the charges, all five of these newly named defendants could face maximum terms of life in prison. Gil-Bernardez is charged with murder in aid of racketeering, an offense that could be punishable by death.
The sixth new defendant named in the superseding indictment, Henry Diaz-Antunuez, 18, of Washington, D.C., is charged under District of Columbia law, with one count of first degree murder while armed.
Diaz-Antunuez was arrested on Nov. 2, 2011. Ramirez and Melgar-Hernandez are still being sought by authorities.
A total of 16 defendants now face charges in the case.
The indictment alleges that MS-13 engages in racketeering activity to include murder, narcotics distribution, extortion, robberies, obstruction of justice and other crimes. The indictment specifically states that some of the defendants allegedly participated in assaults against persons they believed to be rival gang members, made threats against persons they believed to be cooperating with law enforcement, and carried out extortions.
“The indictment announced today describes a chilling array of violent crimes, including shootings, stabbings and kidnappings,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “As charged, these crimes were ordered and carried out by MS-13 gang members, some of whom gave their commands from prisons in El Salvador. Violent street gangs such as MS-13 pose a threat to communities nationwide, and we are determined to continue pursuing them aggressively.”
“This indictment alleges that MS-13 gang leaders sought to sow violence in our community from within the walls of El Salvadoran jail cells,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “The international reach of this indictment is a reflection of our determination to dismantle criminal networks that operate in the District of Columbia and to track those responsible, no matter where they may be.”
“We are resolved to dismantle MS-13 in the Washington area and in other communities across the nation,” said ICE Director Morton. “Violent transnational gangs are a scourge, and ICE will do whatever it can to drive these gangs off of our streets.”
“The indictment of these brazen and dangerous criminals once again shows the resolve of law enforcement to work collectively as a team to bring murderers and violent criminals to justice,” said Chief Lanier. “Our multi-agency efforts are integral in deterring these types of crimes from occurring and protecting our communities and neighborhoods.”
The range of criminal activity alleged in the indictment includes acts committed in recent years in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and other states. The indictment alleges that there was frequent contact between MS-13 members in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and El Salvador, and that persons incarcerated in El Salvador encouraged or ordered assaults and murders.
Rivera-Luna is alleged to be an international leader of MS-13 who was sending orders and advice to an MS-13 clique operating in the Washington area, via cellular telephone calls from his prison cell in El Salvador. The indictment alleges that he and Monterrosa-Larios, also incarcerated in El Salvador, directed that a coalition of MS-13 cliques be formed in the Washington area. They advised local clique members that the coalition’s aim was to seek and kill MS-13 members who were found to be cooperating with law enforcement officials.
Among other allegations, the indictment charges Gil-Bernardez and Rivera-Luna with ordering the murder of Louis Alberto Membreno-Zelaya, 27. Membreno-Zelaya was found stabbed to death on Nov. 6, 2008, near 11th Street and Otis Place in Northwest Washington. The murder count against Diaz-Antunuez stems from this killing.
The indictment also alleges that Rivera-Luna authorized the murder of Felipe Enriquez, 25, whose body was found on March 31, 2010, in Montgomery County, Md.
Gil-Bernardez is also charged with murdering Luis Chavez-Ponce, 22, on July 29, 2008, in Riverdale Park, Md., and with shooting a person in April 2008 whom he believed to be a rival gang member. Gil-Bernardez is currently serving a prison sentence on separate charges.
Other defendants facing charges include:
Omar Aguilar, aka Flaco, 22, of Silver Spring, Md.
Wilfredo Mejia, aka Majestic, 26, of Silver Spring, Md.
Michelle Nicole Rios, aka La Licensiada, 21, of Washington, D.C.
Hector Diaz-Flores, aka Littleman, 21, of Washington, D.C.
Manuel Saravia, aka Cholo, 31, of Silver Spring, Md.
Jose Martinez-Amaya, aka Crimen or Mecri, 24, of Annapolis, Md.
Noe Machado-Erazo, aka Gallo, 29, of Wheaton, Md.
Rudis Castro-Martinez, aka Krypta, 20, of Hyattsville, Md.
Mario Lopez-Ramirez, 25, of Honduras.
William Benitez-Saravia, aka Shady, 26, of Manassas, Va.
The indictment alleges various defendants were tied to four murders, three shootings, two stabbings and eight other assaults. The fourth murder is the Dec. 12, 2008, slaying of 14-year-old Giovanni Sanchez, whose body was found in a roadway near 14th and Newton Streets in Northwest Washington.
The prosecution grew out of the efforts of the federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a multi-agency team that conducts comprehensive, multi-level attacks on major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The principal mission of the nationwide program is to identify, disrupt, and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking and money laundering organizations and those primarily responsible for the nation’s drug supply.
An indictment is merely an allegation that defendants have committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty in a court of law.
This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Laura Gwinn of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill O’Malley of the District of Columbia. The case is being investigated by ICE Office of Homeland Security Investigations and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Assistance was provided by the Montgomery County and the Prince George’s County, Md. Police Departments; the State’s Attorney’s Office for Montgomery County, Md.; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.