After a four-week trial, a federal jury has convicted Miguel Alvarado-Linares, Ernesto Escobar, Dimas Alfaro-Granados and Jairo Reyna-Ozuna for committing multiple murders, attempted murders, armed robberies and firearms offenses in Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties.
The convictions were announced today by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Sally Quillian Yates; Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Atlanta; and Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Atlanta Field Office.
Miguel Alvarado-Linares, aka “Joker,” 24, of Norcross, Ga.; Ernesto Escobar, aka “Pink Panther,” 30, of Norcross; Dimas Alfaro-Granados, aka “Toro,” 30, of Duluth, Ga.; and Jairo Reyna-Ozuna, aka “Flaco,” 28, of Norcross, were convicted late yesterday in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia.
“These four MS-13 members committed a host of brutal crimes that devastated countless lives in Northern Georgia,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “As a result of the tireless work by the prosecutors and investigators who tackled this case, the defendants will be removed from the streets they have terrorized.”
“These defendants were the leaders of MS-13, an international gang known for its gratuitous murders,” said U.S. Attorney Yates. “They spread fear throughout the community by killing suspected rival gang members and others who cross their path. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect our streets from turning into battlegrounds.”
“The defendants in this case indiscriminately brought murderous violence against rival gang members and innocent civilians alike,” said Brock D. Nicholson, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Atlanta. “HSI is proud to continue to partner with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to target violent transnational gang members who threaten the safety of Atlanta communities.”
“Removing these violent gang members from the streets of metro Atlanta not only makes for a safer community but further weakens the Southeastern U.S. roots of this international criminal enterprise known as MS-13,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark F. Giuliano of the FBI Atlanta Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with its various law enforcement partners in targeting this group, and others like them, in a unified and effective manner.”
According to the charges and other information presented in court, MS-13 is an international gang that has operated in the Atlanta area since at least 2005. During the course of this investigation, which ended in 2010, more than 75 MS-13 members were arrested, charged and/or deported. MS-13 members were organized into “cliques,” or groups, but they operated under the larger umbrella of MS-13. Each clique had a leader, usually referred to as “the first word,” who conducted weekly meetings, where members discussed their crimes against rival gang members and their plans to retaliate against their rivals. The clique leader collected dues from the gang members and used the money to buy guns and post bail for jailed members. Some of the money was sent back to the MS-13 leaders in El Salvador and Honduras. Clique leaders communicated with MS-13 leaders in their home countries to update them on gang activities in the Atlanta area. The gang members staked out Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties as their home territory, where they committed murders, attempted murders and armed robberies. They also sold cocaine as part of their gang activity.
The evidence presented at trial showed that the defendants committed the following crimes:
• Alvarado-Linares and Alfaro-Granados, along with another gang member, killed Lal Ko in October 2006. Ko was a fellow MS-13 member, but Alvarado-Linares, one of the gang leaders, thought that Ko was cooperating with police and ordered his murder.
• In December 2006, when another MS-13 gang member wanted to quit the gang, Alvarado-Linares and Alfaro-Granados ordered him to kill a rival gang member as a condition of leaving MS-13. On Christmas Eve 2006, that gang member, following orders, shot at a car on Highway 316 that he believed contained rival gang members. The passenger, Angel Gonzalez, was murdered. He was 20 years old.
• On New Year’s Eve 2006, Alvarado-Linares was at an apartment complex where he exchanged gang hand signs and insults with two members of the rival gang SUR-13. Alvarado-Linares then pulled out a gun and shot the men.
• In August 2007, Escobar got into a scuffle with two teenagers at a Shell gas station in Gwinnett County. Escobar reported the incident to Reyna-Ozuna, who was the gang leader at the time. Reyna-Ozuna gave Escobar a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun to retaliate. Escobar went back to the Shell station and shot and killed one of the teenagers as he was painting lines in the parking lot. The victim was only 16 years old.
• In October 2007, Alvarado-Linares was in Gwinnett County and came across a suspected member of the 18th Street gang. Alvarado fired a shotgun and killed the victim, who was 15 years old.
Alvarado-Linares, Escobar and Alfaro-Granados were convicted of RICO conspiracy involving murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Reyna-Ozuna was convicted of RICO conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Alvarado-Linares, Escobar and Alfaro-Granados were also convicted of committing violent crimes in aid of racketeering, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. All of the defendants were convicted of firearms offenses, which carry a sentence of up to and including life in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.
The sentencing for the four defendants will be scheduled at a later date before U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story in the Northern District of Georgia.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service, Gwinnett County Police Department, DeKalb County Police Department, Norcross Police Department, Chamblee Police Department and Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul R. Jones and Kim S. Dammers of the Northern District of Georgia and Trial Attorney Joseph K. Wheatley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section are prosecuting the case.