News and Press Releases

Ten Members, Associates and Leaders of Ms-13 Gang Indicted for Racketeering

January 5, 2012

Charges Include Racketeering, Murder Conspiracy, Attempted Murder, Assault, Illegal Use of Firearms and Related Crimes

An indictment was unsealed in federal court in Brooklyn this morning charging ten members, associates and leaders of the violent international street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as “MS-13,” in a seventeen-count indictment with violent crimes including racketeering, murder conspiracy, attempted murder, assault, assault conspiracy and illegal use of firearms.1 Eight defendants will be arraigned later today before United States Magistrate Judge Joan M. Azrack at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Six of the defendants, including Christian “Casper” Merino, an MS-13 clique leader, face maximum sentences of life imprisonment if convicted.

The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York Field Office; and Raymond W. Kelly, Commissioner, New York City Police Department (NYPD).

As detailed in the indictment and other court filings submitted by the government, a multi-year joint investigation by HSI and the NYPD revealed that since 2007, a powerful clique of MS-13 operating in Flushing, Queens, committed numerous crimes of violence including two attempted murders – a machete attack in the summer of 2009, and a stabbing and baseball bat beating on September 24, 2010 – and conspiring to assault and murder rival gang members. Following the stabbing and baseball bat beating, defendant Christian Merino was intercepted in a telephone conversation reporting, “If he’s not in the hospital, he’s dead!” In connection with today’s arrest, law enforcement officers seized a machete from defendant Abraham “Lobo” Iraheta, who is charged in the indictment with using a machete to commit the 2009 attempted murder.

The indictment also alleges that several of the defendants used firearms in furtherance of conspiracies to murder rival gang members, as well as others who may have “disrespected” the MS-13 gang. In one charged murder conspiracy, defendant Carlos “Morro” Hernandez was intercepted during a telephone conversation saying, “If you want me to take the shot I want to know who is coming and who is not,” at which point defendant Alex “Negro” Machado assured him that “It will be real quick.” Today, law enforcement officers seized a .38 caliber revolver and a 10” knife and leather sheath from Machado. In another intercepted conversation, Merino stated that the gang is going to get payback against an individual who had a dispute with defendant Kevin “Stalker” Cardona. Cardona then told defendant Iraheta that the gang is “well armed with knives and a gun.”

Iraheta is also charged with threatening to assault an NYPD Detective with a baseball bat. During this encounter, he repeatedly shouted at the detective “Shoot me, I’m going to f*** you up.”

The government’s investigation revealed that MS-13 defendants not only carried out brutal acts of violence in Queens, but also conspired with fellow gang members throughout the United States and El Salvador, the gang’s international operational headquarters, to further the gang’s criminal objectives. Specifically, evidence obtained through a court-authorized wiretap revealed that MS-13 members based in New York and Virginia wired funds to El Salvador in order to finance the gang’s illicit activities and that MS-13 members based in Queens plotted with fellow gang members based in Virginia, North Carolina and El Salvador to illegally smuggle MS-13 members from the Texas border to Virginia.

The charges announced today are the latest in a series of federal indictments in this district charging members of MS-13, a gang comprised primarily of immigrants from El Salvador. With hundreds of members locally, MS-13 has a strong presence in Queens and is the largest street gang on Long Island. Over the past decade, more than 120 MS-13 soldiers and leaders have been convicted in the Eastern District of New York of violent federal crimes, including racketeering, murder and assault.

“Members of MS-13 have established their presence in the New York area not by seeking to join society as productive members, but through murder, racketeering and brutal acts of violence. Aimed primarily at rival gang members, their violence will nevertheless extend to anyone in their way, including, as alleged, law enforcement. We are steadfast in our commitment to disrupting and dismantling this violent international street gang. We will make use of all available resources to protect our neighborhoods from the scourge of gang violence,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. Ms. Lynch extended her grateful appreciation to the Queens County District Attorney’s Office and the New York City Department of Probation for their assistance in this ongoing investigation.

“The arrests today demonstrate our continuous resolve and effort to dismantle transnational violent gangs operating in our cities,” said HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Hayes. “We will target gang members as they target their own communities, and bring their crimes to justice.”

NYPD Commissioner Kelly stated, “The only people who should be wielding baseball bats in Flushing are Mets, not MS-13. A gang member who threatened an NYPD detective with a bat over an illegal gun possession, and his cohorts, are in custody now thanks to the NYPD Gang Division, HSI agents and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ali Kazemi.

The Defendants:

WILBER BAIRES, also known as “Doofy”
Age: 20

JOSE BARRERA, also known as “Travieso”
Age: 23

KEVIN CARDONA, also known as “Stalker”
Age: 19

RUDY GUEMBES-LORENA, also known as “Darky”
Age: 27

JOSE CELESTINO GUILLEN-RIVAS, also known as “Pirata”
Age: 31

CARLOS HERNANDEZ, also known as “Morro”
Age: 20

ABRAHAM IRAHETA, also known as “Lobo”
Age: 21

ALEX MACHADO, also known as “Negro”
Age: 21

CHRISTIAN MERINO, also known as “Casper”
Age: 18

NELSON QUINTEROS, also known as “Sonic”
Age: 18




1 The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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