Department of Justice Logo and United States Attorney's Office Header

April 19, 2012

(713) 567-9388

MS-13 Gang Members and Associates Indicted for Racketeering and Drug Trafficking

HOUSTON – Five members or associates of the Mara Salva Trucha (MS-13) Street gang have been indicted on racketeering, drug trafficking and firearms violations, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today along with Robert Rutt, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations.

The indictment, returned April 11, 2012, was unsealed a short time ago following yesterday’s arrests of Rodney Zaid Mejia, Pedro Melendez and Hector Villarreal, all 20 and from Houston. They will make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Frances H. Stacy at 2:00 p.m. today. Two other defendants, Hector Abarca, 21, and Johnnie Sanchez, 31, also of Houston, were already in state custody and are expected to appear on these charges before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the near future.

The arrests took place yesterday throughout the Houston area with the assistance of agents and officers from ICE-HSI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Harris County Sheriff’s Department and the Houston Police Department following the conclusion of a two-year investigation.

Those arrested today are alleged members or associates of the MS-13 gang. According to the indictment, the word “Mara” is the term used in El Salvador for gang, while the phrase “Salvatrucha” is a combination of the words “Salva” (an abbreviation for Salvadoran) and “trucha” (a slang term for the warning “fear us,” “look out” or “heads up”). The gang allegedly makes money by trafficking in narcotics and protects its territory from rival gang members through violence. 

The indictment alleges Mejia, Abarca and Melendez engaged in acts of racketeering by attempting to murder another in order to gain entry to or advance membership in the MS-13 gang while Sanchez and Hector Villarreal allegedly participated in narcotics trafficking. The indictment also alleges various firearms charges. 

If convicted of the racketeering charge, the defendants face up to 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 and three years of post prison supervised release, while the narcotics charges carry up to five and 20 years, respectively. The firearm charge carries a term of up to 10 years imprisonment.

The cases will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Tim S. Braley and Mark Donnelly.      

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.