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Thursday, September 25, 2008
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

MS-13 Leader Sentenced to Life in Prison for Involvement in RICO Conspiracy

WASHINGTON – A leader of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was sentenced today to life in prison for his participation in a racketeering enterprise, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Matthew Friedrich and U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Edward M. Yarbrough announced. Ronald Fuentes, a/k/a "Spia," was sentenced in Nashville, Tenn., by Chief U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell of the Middle District of Tennessee.

At his plea hearing on July 28, 2008, Fuentes admitted that, as a leader of the MS-13 gang, he conspired with others to participate in a pattern of racketeering activity in the Nashville metropolitan area that included murder, attempted murder and witness tampering. Fuentes admitted that in addition to personally committing various acts of violence, he exercised his leadership by enforcing MS-13 rules and inciting other members to attack and kill rival gang members.

Fuentes admitted that on March 21, 1999, he and other MS-13 gang members killed an individual, who was believed to be a rival gang member, by beating him in the head with a concrete block. In addition, Fuentes admitted that in March 2006, he shot at an individual who disrespected the MS-13 gang near a Nashville apartment complex. Fuentes further admitted that in the spring of 2006, he and other MS-13 gang members attempted to kill rival gang members through the use of firearms at the intersection of Nolensville Road and Glenrose Avenue in Nashville. Finally, Fuentes admitted that on May 21, 2006, he and other MS-13 gang members fired a handgun at an individual who was suspected of being a member of the rival street gang Brown Pride. The victim was struck and wounded in the arm.

Fuentes is the seventh defendant to be sentenced on RICO charges stemming from an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Nashville on Jan. 10, 2007. That indictment charged 14 members of MS-13 with conspiring to participate in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise and related charges including murder, attempted murder, assault, weapons charges and obstruction of justice.

Six other defendants were previously sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to the RICO conspiracy. Walter Hernandez was sentenced on March 31, 2008, to 324 months in prison. On Dec. 3 and Dec. 7, 2007, respectively, Henry Garballo-Vasquez and Jose Alfaro were sentenced to 240 months in prison. On Nov. 20, 2007, Geovanni Pena received a sentence of 235 months in prison. On Sept. 8, 2008, Ericka Cortez received a sentence of 46 months in prison. On Sept.16, 2008, Escolastico Serrano was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

According to the indictment, the MS-13 gang is a violent international criminal organization composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador. The purpose of the racketeering enterprise was to preserve and protect the power, territory and profits of the MS-13 enterprise through violent assault, murder, threats of violence and intimidation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jimmie Lynn Ramsaur of the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney John Han of the Criminal Division’s Gang Squad.

The case was investigated by the Criminal Division’s Gang Squad; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee; the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department’s Gang Suppression Unit; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and the Davidson County District Attorney General’s Office.