Four men were sentenced in Maryland for their participation in La Mara Salvatrucha, a violent international gang commonly known as MS-13.
Jose Henry Hernandez-Garcia, aka Paciente, 29, of Annandale, Virginia, was sentenced today to life in prison. Agustino Eugenio Rivas Rodriguez, aka Terrible, 26, of Silver Spring, Maryland, was sentenced on Aug. 1 to 16 years in prison. Hernan Yanes-Rivera, aka Recio, 22, of Adelphi, Maryland, was sentenced on July 28 to 22 years in prison. Brian Samir Zelaya Mejia, aka Chispa, 25, of Hyattsville, Maryland, was sentenced on July 25 to six years in prison.
United States v. Jose Domingo Ordonez-Zometa, et al.
According to court documents, Hernandez-Garcia and his co-defendants were members of the Los Ghettos Criminales Salvatruchas (LGCS or Ghettos) clique of MS-13. MS-13 is an international criminal organization composed primarily of individuals from El Salvador or their descendants, with members operating throughout the United States. MS-13 members are organized into “cliques,” smaller groups that operate in a specific city or region. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence, both to maintain membership and discipline within the gang and against rival gangs. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible. MS-13 members earn promotions and improved standing within the gang for participating in attacks on rival gang members, often at the direction of MS-13 leadership.
On March 8, 2019, Jose Domingo Ordonez-Zometa, the leader of the LCGS clique, called a LCGS meeting at his house to discuss clique matters, including recent contacts that an LCGS clique member (the victim) had with the police. Hernandez-Garcia, Jose Rafael Ortega-Ayala, the victim, and other MS-13 members participated in the meeting, during which Ordonez-Zometa questioned the victim about cooperating with police.
During the questioning, the MS-13 members assaulted the victim, based on their incorrect suspicions that the victim was cooperating with law enforcement. They also assaulted another MS-13 member who attempted to defend the victim. The assault culminated with Ordonez-Zometa ordering the murder of the victim. Hernandez-Garcia, Ortega-Ayala, and other MS-13 members then murdered the victim by stabbing him in Ordonez-Zometa’s basement.
After the murder, Ordonez-Zometa ordered Hernandez-Garcia, Ortega-Ayala, and other LCGS clique members and co-conspirators to cover up the murder. Ortega-Ayala and other MS-13 members transported the body of the victim to a secluded location in Stafford County, Virginia, and set the victim’s body on fire, and then destroyed and concealed evidence of the murder from the vehicle used to transport the victim. Meanwhile, Ordonez-Zometa, Hernandez-Garcia, and another MS-13 member stayed at the crime scene and attempted to remove, destroy, and conceal other evidence of the murder, including the victim’s blood.
On March 6, Ordonez-Zometa was sentenced to life in prison. Ortega-Ayala is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 25.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland, Special Agent in Charge Wayne Jacobs of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division, Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore Office, Stafford County Sheriff David P. Decatur, Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department, and Chief Kevin Davis of the Fairfax County Police Department made the announcement.
The FBI, HSI, the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, the Prince George’s County Police Department, and the Fairfax County Police Department investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Matthew Hoff and Jared Engelking of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Morgan for the District of Maryland are prosecuting the case.
United States v. Brayan Torres, et al.
According to court documents, Rivas Rodriguez, Yanes-Rivera, and Zelaya Mejia were members and associates of Weedams Locos Salvatrucha, (WLS), a MS-13 clique operating primarily in Adelphi.
On Feb. 23, 2020, at the direction of MS-13 leaders Brayan Alexander Torres and Agustino Eugenio Rivas Rodriguez, Yanes-Rivera and co-defendant Franklyn Sanchez shot and killed a former WLS member, identified in court records as Victim 1, in retaliation for the victim’s suspected cooperation with law enforcement. In the weeks before the murder, Victim 1 had been in touch with WLS members over social media, text messages, and calls. WLS members told Victim 1 that if he met with gang members to make amends, his cooperation would be forgiven. Victim 1 was instructed to wait on the side of a road at a location in or near Adelphi. A junior WLS member drove Yanes-Rivera and Sanchez to the location, where they picked up Victim 1. They drove to a location in or near Hyattsville. Yanes-Rivera, Sanchez, and Victim 1 got out of the car and walked into the woods, where Yanes-Rivera and Sanchez shot and killed Victim 1. MS-13 promoted Yanes-Rivera for his participation in the murder.
On Aug. 8, 2020, WLS members, including Franklyn Sanchez, gathered at a park in Prince George’s County. Sanchez and several other WLS members agreed to murder a man, identified in court records as Victim 4, who was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement and to whom Sanchez owed a debt. As planned, Sanchez and another MS-13 member murdered Victim 4, then dragged Victim 4’s body to a stream and left it there. As he was leaving the woods, Sanchez was concerned that his DNA remained on the body. To prevent the discovery of his DNA or other evidence, and to hinder the investigation and prosecution of Victim 4’s murder, Rivas Rodriguez, Zelaya Mejia, and other WLS members buried Victim 4’s body in the woods. Law enforcement later found Victim 4’s body with a bullet wound to the head.
Yanes-Rivera and Zelaya Mejia were also responsible for collecting extortion payments, or “rents,” from at least two extortion victims on behalf of WLS, knowing that the victims making extortion payments did so under the threat of death or bodily injury. For example, WLS members used baseball bats to impose rents and sometimes collected rent while flashing firearms or other weapons.
Rivas Rodriguez and Yanes-Rivera also participated in money laundering by transferring gang funds from extortion activities to MS-13 members and associates in El Salvador.
On May 19, Sanchez was sentenced to 28 years in prison. Torres is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 13.
Assistant Attorney General Polite, U.S. Attorney Barron, Special Agent in Charge Thomas J. Sobocinski of the FBI Baltimore Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Harris of HSI Baltimore, and Chief Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department made the announcement.
The FBI, HSI, and Prince George’s County Police Department investigated the case, with assistance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations and Montgomery County Police Department.
Trial Attorney Christopher Taylor of the Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Crespo for the District of Maryland are prosecuting the case.
These cases are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. PSN, an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime, is the centerpiece of the Justice Department’s violent crime reduction efforts. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
These cases are also part of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigations. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.
Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement. The FBI and HSI both have nationwide tiplines that you can call to report what you know. You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.