MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced to Life in Prison for Racketeering Conspiracy and Murder
A Maryland man was sentenced today to life in prison for racketeering, murder in aid of racketeering, and conspiring to destroy evidence connected to his participation in La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Jose Domingo Ordonez-Zometa, aka Felon, 33, of Landover Hills, was a member of MS-13, a transnational criminal enterprise and one of the largest street gangs in the United States that is composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador and other central American countries. Ordonez-Zometa and his co-conspirators – Jose Rafael Ortega-Ayala and Jose Henry Hernandez-Garcia – were members and associates of the Los Ghettos Criminales Salvatruchas (LGCS or Ghettos) clique of MS-13. Ordonez-Zometa was the leader of the LGCS clique.
Between August 2018 and April 2019, Ordonez-Zometa and his co-conspirators participated in the MS-13 criminal enterprise by engaging in acts of violence, including murder, the destruction of evidence, and witness tampering, among other crimes. Ordonez-Zometa and his fellow gang members committed these crimes to increase MS-13’s power in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, including Maryland and Virginia.
As part of the conspiracy, MS-13 members were expected to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang, using any means necessary to force respect, including acts of intimidation and violence. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, often referred to as “chavalas,” whenever possible. Participation in criminal activity by a member, particularly in violent acts directed at rival gangs or as directed by gang leadership, increases the respect accorded to that member, resulting in that member maintaining or increasing his position in the gang, and opens the door to promotion to a leadership position.
On March 8, 2019, Ordonez-Zometa called a meeting of the LGCS clique at his house to discuss clique matters, including recent contacts that another LGCS clique member (Victim 1) had with the police. Ordonez-Zometa, his co-conspirators, Victim 1, and other MS-13 members participated in the meeting, during which Ordonez-Zometa questioned Victim 1 about his/her cooperation with police. During the questioning, Ordonez-Zometa, his co-conspirators, and at least one other MS-13 member assaulted Victim 1 based on their incorrect suspicions that Victim 1 was cooperating with law enforcement. They also assaulted another MS-13 member who attempted to defend Victim 1. The assault culminated with Ordonez-Zometa ordering that Victim 1 be killed. His co-conspirators and other MS-13 members then stabbed and murdered Victim 1 in Ordonez-Zometa’s basement.
After the murder, Ordonez-Zometa ordered his co-conspirators and other LGCS clique members to conceal and destroy evidence of the murder. Ortega-Ayala and other MS-13 members transported the body of the victim to a secluded location in Stafford County, Virginia. They 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 evidence of the murder, including Victim 1’s blood.
In December 2022, Ordonez-Zometa, Ortega-Ayala, and Hernandez-Garcia were convicted at trial of racketeering and murder in aid of racketeering conspiracies, committing murder in aid of racketeering, and conspiracy to destroy and conceal evidence.
Ortega-Ayala and Hernandez-Garcia also face a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Their sentencing dates have not yet been set.
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, and Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.
The FBI, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Stafford County Sheriff’s Office, the Prince George’s County Police Department, and the Fairfax County Police Department investigated the case, with valuable assistance from the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Office.
Trial Attorneys Jared Engelking and Matthew Hoff of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Morgan for the District of Maryland prosecuted the case.
This case is 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 is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. 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.