Ten MS-13 Members and Associates Indicted for Gang-Related Murders and Racketeering
FRESNO, Calif. — A seven-count superseding indictment was unsealed today, charging 10 MS‑13 members and associates with a RICO conspiracy and murder in aid of racketeering, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
“When reports surfaced that MS-13 had established a presence in the City of Mendota in the Central Valley, a multi-agency investigation was launched,” U.S. Attorney Talbert said. “Today’s announcement is a direct result of the arrests in 2018 of 25 individuals on federal and state charges in connection with their Mara Salvatrucha (MS‑13) gang activities. One of the highest priorities of my office and of the federal law enforcement agencies we work with is to partner with the police departments, sheriffs’ offices, and district attorneys in our district to reduce violent crime.”
According to court documents, the following defendants named in the indictment are alleged members and associates of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), a violent criminal street gang: Martin Alfredo Leiva-Leiva, 43, of Richmond; Juan Carlos Urias-Torres, 34, of Stockton; Angel Antonio Diaz-Morales, 32, of Salinas; Jose Rene Barrera-Martinez, 34, of Mendota; Luis Fausino Diaz-Pineda, 28, of Mendota; Angel Antonio Castro-Alfaro, 29, of Mendota; Jose Joaquin Amaya-Orellana, 31, of Mendota; Julio Cesar Recinos-Sorto, 28, of Leesburg, Virginia; Jose Armando Torres-Garcia, 27, of El Salvador; and Jose Santos Hernandez-Otero, 29, of El Salvador. The criminal organization’s members and associates engage in acts of violence, including acts involving murder, extortion, kidnapping, assault, and other crimes often with the purpose of intimidating rival gang members, victims of extortion, and members of the community, and to protect their “turf” and fellow gang members.
According to court documents, MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) was formed in Los Angeles in the mid 1980s by Salvadoran immigrants and is known for committing brutal acts of violence against rival gang members and nongang members. MS-13 in Los Angeles is beholden to the Mexican Mafia, which is a criminal organization that united Hispanic gang members under a single alliance operating within the California state prison system, the streets and suburbs of large cities throughout Southern California, and elsewhere.
MS-13 has a self-imposed code of conduct to enforce and maintain compliance among its members. MS-13 also adopts and enforces the Mexican Mafia’s rules. MS-13 has zero tolerance for members and associates who cooperate with law enforcement. Once MS-13 has evidence that someone has cooperated with law enforcement, MS-13 issues a “green light” as to that person, which is an order that if any MS-13 member sees the person who is allegedly or actually cooperating with law enforcement, that person is to be killed on sight. MS-13 members also engage in acts of violence against innocent citizens and rival gang members in their territory.
Participation in violent acts increases the respect accorded to members who commit violent acts. Additionally, commission of violent acts by MS-13 members enhances the gang’s overall reputation for violence in the community, resulting in the intimidation of citizens in MS-13’s territory.
MS-13 in Fresno County
Since 2015, there are more than 14 homicides alleged to be related to MS-13 in Mendota. These homicides are alleged to be related to MS-13 for a variety of reasons that include: the locations where the homicide victims were recovered (in and around Mendota), the association between the homicide victims and known MS-13 gang members, and the cause of death or condition the homicide victims have been found, including gruesome attacks caused by machetes, a weapon commonly used by MS‑13 gang members.
The MS-13 subsets operating in Mendota have a direct connection to, and originate from, MS‑13 from Los Angeles. Investigators allege that the individuals charged in the indictment were associated with a Mara Salvatrucha subset in Mendota known as Vatos Locos Salvatruchos (VLS).
Murder of an adult male on Jan. 26, 2016
Leiva-Leiva and Diaz-Morales are charged with the murder of an adult male on Jan. 26, 2016, in San Benito County for the purpose of gaining entrance and maintaining and increasing position in MS-13.
Murder of an adult female on July 13, 2016
Leiva-Leiva and Urias-Torres are charged with the murder in Fresno County of an adult female that occurred on July 13, 2016, for the purpose of gaining entrance and maintaining and increasing position in MS-13.
Murder of an adult female and an adult male on Oct. 30, 2016
Leiva-Leiva, Hernandez-Otero, Torres-Garcia, Amaya-Orellana, and Recinos-Sorto are charged with murdering an adult female and an adult male on Oct. 30, 2016, in Fresno County for the purpose of gaining entrance and maintaining and increasing position in MS-13.
Murder of an adult male in January 2017
Leiva-Leiva, Barrera-Martinez, Diaz-Pineda, and Angel Antonio Castro-Alfaro are charged with the January 2017 murder of an adult male in Fresno County for the purpose of gaining entrance and maintaining and increasing position in MS-13.
Murder of an adult female on Dec. 13, 2017
Leiva-Leiva and Urias-Torres are charged with the murder of an adult female on Dec. 13, 2017, for the purpose of gaining entrance and maintaining and increasing position in MS-13.
“MS-13 gang members prey upon the communities they live in, committing the most heinous, violent acts against their victims. The streets of the Central Valley and surrounding communities are safer when criminal gang members are arrested and held to account for their crimes,” said HSI San Francisco Special Agent in Charge Tatum King. “I’m proud of HSI’s exhaustive investigative work, together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Justice, and the US Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of California, in bringing these subjects to justice.”
“The FBI is deeply committed to leveraging all of its assets, both foreign and domestic, in collaboration with our local, state, and federal partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations that threaten the communities we serve. Every family deserves to live in a community free of fear and gang violence,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI Sacramento Field Office. “We also need the public to come forward with information to help us all in that mission. Never suffer in silence; law enforcement can and will help ensure justice for victims and safer communities for all.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations, in partnership with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, the Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium (MAGEC), and the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office with assistance from the Mendota Police Department, the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office, the Los Angeles Police Department Robbery, Homicide Division and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Organized Crime and Gang Section (OCGS), the Office of Enforcement Operations (OEO), and the Office of International Affairs (OIA) also assisted. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly A. Sanchez and Justin J. Gilio and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Veneman-Hughes are prosecuting the case.
If convicted, the defendants face a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison and a maximum statutory penalty of death. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
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 gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.
Anyone with information on murders committed in the Mendota area 2014-2018, please call the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Unit at 559-600-3111.