Three MS-13 Leaders Convicted of Racketeering Conspiracy
A federal jury convicted three men for conspiring to participate in La Mara Salvatrucha, a transnational criminal enterprise, commonly known as MS-13, through a pattern of racketeering activity, including murder, extortion, drug trafficking, money laundering, and witness tampering.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Luis Flores-Reyes, aka Maloso, aka Lobo, 41, of Arlington, Virginia; Jairo Jacome, aka Abuelo, 40, of Langley Park, Maryland; and Brayan Contreras-Avalos, aka Anonimo, aka Malia, aka Humilde, 27, of Langley Park, Maryland, ran a protection scheme with MS-13 in and around Langley Park, extorting local businesses by charging them “rent” for the privilege of operating in MS-13 “territory.”
MS-13 is organized into a series of sub-units or “cliques” that operate in specific geographic locations. Jacome was the highest-ranking member in a local clique called Langley Park Salvatrucha, or LPS. Flores-Reyes and Contreras-Avalos were leaders within the powerful Sailors Clique, which held territory in Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and El Salvador.
“MS-13 terrorizes communities throughout the United States and abroad, using fear, violence, and intimidation,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This conviction demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to dismantling this violent criminal organization.”
Flores-Reyes, Jacome, and Contreras-Avalos also participated in at least six murders during the period of the conspiracy, mostly of victims who they believed to be gang rivals. In June 2016, members of MS-13, including Contreras-Avalos, stabbed to death two homeless individuals, who were believed to be members of the 18th Street gang, in Hyattsville, Maryland.
The gang also trafficked in illegal drugs, including marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. A large share of the proceeds of the gang’s illegal activities were sent to gang leadership in El Salvador to further promote the illicit activities of the gang, using structured transactions and intermediaries to avoid law enforcement scrutiny.
“These defendants wreaked havoc within our communities through drug trafficking, extortion, fear, and murder – now they will be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland. “We will relentlessly prosecute those who terrorize our communities with intimidation and violence.”
In March 2017, a member of the Sailors Clique, who was hiding from law enforcement in the Lynchburg, Virginia-area, had a dispute with a local high school student over marijuana. In response, Flores-Reyes commanded a squad of MS-13 members drive to Lynchburg and murder the high school student. The gang members kidnapped the student from his front lawn and cut his hand off before killing him. After the murder, Flores-Reyes helped to hide and protect the killers from law enforcement.
Among the most important rules of MS-13 is the prohibition against talking to law enforcement, embodied by the maxim ver, oir, y callar – see, hear, and say nothing. The gang enforced this rule by placing a “green light” – an order to kill – on any member of MS-13 who was thought to be informing on the gang. In December 2016, Jacome directed and participated in the murder of a 14-year-old member of MS-13 who was suspected of talking to the police. The boy’s remains were discovered 18 months later in the woods outside of Germantown, Maryland.
“Members of MS-13, including Flores-Reyes, Jacome, and Contreras-Avalos, sow fear and violence in local communities through murder, extortion, drug trafficking, and witness tampering,” said Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D'Antuono of the FBI Washington Field Office. “Today's convictions represent some of the finest work the FBI and its partners undertake to hold violent gang members to account for the irreparable harm they have inflicted on humanity. The investigation and its results should also serve as yet another reminder of the consequences to be faced by those who traffic in violence. We and our partners remain committed to working together to aggressively pursue and dismantle these criminal enterprises who continue to threaten the residents of our communities.”
“Today’s conviction highlights HSI’s commitment to protecting public security and the keeping our communities safe,” said Acting Executive Associate Director Steve K. Francis of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “We will continue working with our local, state, and federal partners to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal organizations such as MS-13.”
Flores-Reyes, Jacome, and Contreras-Avalos were each convicted of racketeering conspiracy. Flores-Reyes and Jacome were additionally convicted of murder in aid of racketeering and extortion conspiracy, and Flores-Reyes and Contreras-Avalos were convicted of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. No sentencing date has been set. Flores-Reyes and Jacome face a mandatory penalty of life in prison. Contreras-Avalos faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI Washington Field Office, HSI Baltimore, DEA New York Field Division, DEA Baltimore District Office, Prince George’s County Police Department, Montgomery County Police Department, Virginia State Police, Lynchburg Police Department, Prince William County Police Department, and Bedford County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case. The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office also provided valuable assistance.
Trial Attorney Alexander Gottfried of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy Hagan and Christopher Sarma for the District of Maryland are prosecuting the case.