MS-13 Gang Leader Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Offenses Including the Murder of a Witness
Greenbelt, Maryland - Juan Carlos Moreira, a/k/a “Stokey” and “Stocky,” age 30, a native of El Salvador who resided in Silver Spring, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit murder in aid of a racketeering enterprise known as MS-13, conspiracy to participate in racketeering, murder in aid of racketeering, witness tampering murder and assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Theresa R. Stoop of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - Baltimore Field Division; Chief Roberto L. Hylton of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Chief Darien L. Manley of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.
U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said, “Many dangerous criminals have been convicted and removed from Maryland as a result of superb work by law enforcement and prosecutors on the MS-13 investigation. Racketeering cases often are time-consuming, but they make a dramatic contribution to public safety.”
“Today’s plea demonstrates how serious and determined we are in bringing violent criminals to justice, says ATF’s Special Agent in Charge Theresa R. Stoop. “ATF has, and will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners to protect our communities from senseless acts of violence and intimidation.”
Chief Roberto L. Hylton of the Prince George’s County Police Department stated, “The guilty plea of Juan Moreira is the result of an exhaustive, collaborative effort which began in Prince George’s County with the formation of the Regional Anti-Gang Enforcement Task Force. We appreciate the efforts of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in partnering with us several years ago to form this task force. The later addition of other federal resources allowed us to make a huge impact in fighting the emerging threat to our community from MS-13.”
According to Moreira’s plea agreement, he was a leader of the Sailor Locos Salvatruchos Westside (SLSW) clique of La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, a gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, with members operating throughout Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, Maryland and elsewhere inside and outside of the United States. Moreira was born in El Salvador where he was “jumped in” to the SLSW clique. In 1998, Moreira entered the U.S. illegally and, along with four other people, founded the SLSW clique in Maryland, in the summer of 2000. From that time until the summer of 2003, Moreira held the leadership position of “First Word” of the Maryland SLSW clique, which required him to lead clique meetings, represent the clique at general and regional meetings, direct the activities of the clique, and pay dues.
According to the statement of facts, Moreira and other members of SLSW stabbed an MS-13 member from a Virginia clique on January 1, 2003, after Moreira and the other MS-13 member had a verbal confrontation at a party.
Moreira also admitted that in the early months of 2003, he and the Sailors clique possessed a MAC-90 automatic assault rifle, as well as 7.62 mm ammunition for the rifle. On April 9, 2003, Moreira sold the rifle for $1,500 to an undercover law enforcement agent.
According to the plea agreement, MS-13 members Nelson Bernal and Randy Calderon murdered a suspected rival gang member, Eliuth Madrigal, in Moreira’s apartment in Silver Spring on November 22, 2003. Moreira was in an upstairs bedroom at the time of the murder. When Moreira was informed of the murder, he ordered Calderon and Bernal to remove the body from the apartment and led the group in cleaning up the murder scene. Moreira later attempted to cover up the murder by painting the walls and changing the carpet in the apartment, where Madrigal had been stabbed repeatedly.
Shortly after the Madrigal murder, and still on November 22, 2003, Moreira directed Bernal and Calderon to accompany him to the apartment of Israel Ramos-Cruz (a/k/a “Taylor”), who held the “first word” leadership position of the Sailors clique at the time. After arriving at the residence, Moreira and Ramos-Cruz had a private discussion in the kitchen area while the others were in the living room, then returned to the living room and told Calderon that he and others were to paint MS-13 graffiti in celebration of Calderon’s murder of Madrigal. Ramos-Cruz gave Calderon a can of blue spray paint and instructed another member of the Sailors clique, Santos Maximino Garcia, a/k/a “Curley,” to drive Moreira and Calderon to their destination. After Garcia and Calderon left the apartment, Ramos-Cruz gave Moreira a handgun. Moreira directed Garcia to take them to an area behind a 7-11 store in Mount Rainier, Maryland, where Sailors members had previously spray-painted graffiti. Moreira and Calderon exited the vehicle and a short time later Moreira fired a single shot into Calderon’s head, killing him. According to the statement of facts, Moreira and Ramos-Cruz later made statements to the effect that Calderon had to be killed because he would not have been tough and would have told police about the Madrigal murder.
On January 5, 2005, Moreira and Omar Vasquez (a/k/a “Duke”), a fellow Sailors member, were involved in a fight with members of a rival gang at a McDonald’s restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia. Moreira and Vasquez lost the fight and Moreira admitted that in response, on January 21, 2005, he and multiple other MS-13 members went in search of the rival gang involved in the fight. They drove to an apartment building in Alexandria, Virginia, where they saw a group of youths that they believed included a member of the rival gang that had fought with Moreira earlier in the month. Moreira and another MS-13 member approached the group and each fired multiple shots at the group, wounding three juvenile males, one of whom died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.
Chief U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow has scheduled sentencing for September 14, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. The parties have agreed that a sentence of life in prison is the appropriate disposition of this case. As part of the plea agreement, the government has withdrawn its notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Moreira.
Israel Ramos Cruz, a/k/a “Taylor,” a/k/a “Sastre,” age 33, Garcia, age 33, and Vasquez, age 32, were convicted at trial. Ramos Cruz and Vasquez were sentenced to life in prison and Garcia was sentenced to 32 years in prison. Bernal, age 29, of Hyattsville, pleaded guilty to charges related to his role in the gang; a sentencing date for Bernal has not been set.
To date, this office has charged 51 MS-13 members with various federal offenses; 26 members have been convicted at trial or pled guilty to RICO charges and 19 have pleaded guilty to other charges, primarily immigration or gun violations. Four defendants have been sentenced to life in prison.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer praised ATF’s RAGE Task Force, and thanked Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy for the assistance that they and their offices provided.
Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Breuer commended Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert K. Hur and William D. Moomau, Trial Attorney Michael Warbel of the Criminal Division’s Capital Case Unit, currently on detail to the Organized Crime and Gang Unit; and James M. Trusty, Principal Deputy Chief for Litigation of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Unit, who are prosecuting the case.