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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Three MS-13 Leaders Sentenced to Decades in Prison for Racketeering and Related Charges for Multiple Murders and Attacks

Twelve Others Have Pled Guilty in the Case

            WASHINGTON – Three leaders of MS-13 in Washington, D.C., were sentenced today to decades in prison for conspiring to participate in racketeering activity and other charges stemming from their roles in murders, extortion and other violent crimes in the Washington area.

            The sentences were announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen, Jr.; Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Clark E. Settles, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Washington, D.C.; and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

            The defendants were found guilty of various federal offenses in August 2013 following a month-long trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They were sentenced by the Honorable Senior Judge Royce C. Lamberth.

            Noe Machado-Erazo, aka “Gallo,” 32, of Wheaton, Md., was sentenced to life in prison plus ten years.  Jose Martinez-Amaya, 28, aka “Crimen,” of Brentwood, Md., was sentenced to life in prison plus ten years.  Yester Ayala, 24, aka “Freeway” and “Daddy Yankee,” of Washington, D.C., was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

            “This prosecution shows our commitment to purging MS-13’s bloody brand of violence from the District of Columbia,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen.  “These killers brought lawless vengeance to our community and left a 14-year-old boy dead.  These gang members will now have decades in prison to reflect on their heinous crimes.”

            “MS-13 is a brutally violent gang that has plagued communities in many parts of this country, including Washington, D.C.,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “The lengthy sentences imposed on the MS-13 leaders convicted in this case reflect the vicious and calculated nature of the murders they committed and the gang they led.”

            “HSI continuously targets transnational gangs that wreak havoc on our American communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Settles. “Today’s sentences are testament to the strong investigative work of our HSI special agents and the Metropolitan Police Department.”

            “The action by the courts today further exemplifies our message to persons engaging in criminal gang activity: you will find no place for your activities here in Washington, D.C.,” said Chief Lanier. “We will work as long as necessary to ensure this city, and the capital area, are free from the violence and harm gang activity brings into our communities.  The agents, officers, and attorneys have done a tremendous job bringing this case to a successful end.”

            Machado-Erazo was found guilty of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity, murder in aid of racketeering and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence.  Martinez-Amaya was found guilty of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity, murder in aid of racketeering and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. Ayala was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity, two counts of murder in aid of racketeering, one count of first-degree premeditated murder and one count of second-degree murder.

            The government’s evidence showed that MS-13, a large gang that operates in the United States and Central America, engages in racketeering activity including murder, narcotics distribution, extortion, robberies, obstruction of justice and other crimes. The gang has numerous rules, such as enduring a beating of 13 seconds before becoming a member; killing rival gang members; and staying unfailingly loyal.

            According to the government’s evidence, Machado-Erazo was a member and Martinez-Amaya was a leader of the Normandie clique, one of a number of smaller MS-13 groups operating in the Washington area. Ayala was a leader of the Sailors, another clique.  The local cliques often act together, and evidence showed that Machado-Erazo was the leader of a program of cliques that worked together.  According to evidence presented in court, the local MS-13 cliques act in accordance with the international MS-13’s strictures and have frequent contact with MS-13 leadership in El Salvador.  The evidence showed that two of the murders were committed on orders from MS-13 leadership in El Salvador.

            The three defendants are among numerous people indicted by a grand jury in 2010 following a federal investigation.  Twelve others have pleaded guilty to charges in the case.

            The range of criminal activity alleged in the indictment includes acts committed from 2008 through 2010 in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and other states, as well as El Salvador.

            Ayala was convicted of taking part in two in 2008, and Machado-Erazo and Martinez-Amaya were convicted of taking part in the murder of another victim.

            The government presented evidence that Ayala helped carry out orders to murder Louis Alberto Membreno-Zelaya, a fellow MS-13 member who had removed his gang tattoos.  Membreno-Zelaya, 27, was stabbed at least 20 times, according to evidence presented in court. His body was found on Nov. 6, 2008, in Northwest Washington.

            The second murder, according to evidence presented in court, took place in the late afternoon of Dec. 12, 2008.  Ayala joined in on an attack against Giovanni Sanchez, 14, near the Columbia Heights Metro station in Washington.  Giovanni had 11 stab wounds, and witnesses identified Ayala as one of the assailants.

            According to evidence presented at trial, Machado-Erazo and Martinez-Amaya took part in the killing of Felipe Enriquez, 25, whose body was found on March 31, 2010, in Montgomery County, Md.  After being lured to a remote park there, Enriquez, another fellow MS-13 member, was fatally shot.  Evidence presented during trial showed that Machado-Erazo provided the gun and Martinez-Amaya committed the shooting.

            This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nihar Mohanty of the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Laura Gwinn of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section. Those providing assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office included former Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill O’Malley; Victim/Witness Services Supervisor David Foster; Victim/Witness Advocates Yvonne Bryant and Christina Principe; Paralegal Specialists Candace Battle, Catherine O’Neal, and Candice Sisco; Legal Assistant Diane Brashears, and Litigation Technology Specialists Paul Howell, William Henderson, and Kimberly Smith.

            The case was investigated by HSI and the MPD.  Assistance was provided by the Montgomery County, Md., Prince George’s County, Md., and Riverdale Park, Md. Police Departments, the Fairfax County, Va. Police Department; the State’s Attorney’s Office for Montgomery County, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Assistance was provided by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).

Press Release Number: 
Updated June 23, 2015