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Press Release

MS-13 Clique Leader Sentenced to Over 13 Years in Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts

BOSTON –The leader of a local MS-13 clique was sentenced on Nov. 8, 2022 in federal court in Boston.

Manuel Adan Yanez Cruz, a/k/a “Rocky,” a/k/a “Flaco,” 22, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin to 162 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Yanez Cruz is an El Salvadoran citizen and will be subject to deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence. On March 18, 2022, Yanez Cruz pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO or racketeering conspiracy. 

MS-13 is a transnational street gang operating in Massachusetts and numerous other states, as well as countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala who often commit acts of extreme violence against suspected rivals, those suspected of cooperating with law enforcement and others whom the gang views as a threat. In recent years, dozens of MS-13 members have been convicted of RICO conspiracy and other serious felonies in the District of Massachusetts.

MS-13 is organized in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the form of so-called “cliques” or smaller groups that operate under the larger mantle of MS-13. Yanez Cruz was a member and local leader of the Huntington Locos Salvatrucha (HLS) clique, which operated in the cities of Boston, Lynn, Everett, Chelsea, Somerville and other parts of Massachusetts. 

On Dec. 24, 2016, Yanez Cruz was involved in the murder of a teenage boy in East Boston. Specifically, Yanez Cruz informed at least one individual of the murder before it occurred and participated in the planning of the victim’s murder, which was based on the belief that the victim may have been associated with a rival gang. Yanez Cruz was present at the murder along with other MS-13 members to serve as both a witness for El Salvador leaders and to assist as needed. At the time the murder was committed, Yanez Cruz was a juvenile.

Following the murder, Yanez Cruz boasted about his involvement in the murder to help recruit others, including minors, into the MS-13 gang and to earn elevated gang status. Intercepted communications showed that Yanez Cruz communicated with both national and international MS-13 leaders and members about MS-13 gang matters, including the transmission of fees to El Salvador.

Although Yanez Cruz was not charged with the 2016 murder, as part of the Nov. 8, 2022 sentence for federal RICO conspiracy, the Court held him responsible for his involvement in the murder.

In April 2018, Yanez Cruz was also involved in the attempted murder of a victim whom he, along with other MS-13 members, suspected of being a gang rival. MS-13 members lured the victim to the Belle Isle Marsh where a member shot the victim in the head. The gun malfunctioned, however, and the victim survived. 

In September 2018, Yanez Cruz was arrested for an assault on a rival gang member in which he possessed a knife on a public street in broad daylight. In phone communications following the incident, another MS-13 member present at the incident told an associate about the violent nature of the event and that they had almost killed the victim.

Yanez Cruz had entered into the United States unlawfully in 2015 and, following his arrest and conviction on the state knife offense, was transferred into the custody of immigration authorities for deportation proceedings. Authorities sought to remove Yanez Cruz from the United States and pointed to his association with MS-13 as part of the reasons to oppose his petition for asylum and other relief. Yanez Cruz testified under oath at his removal proceedings and made a number of false statements, telling the Court that he was not associated with MS-13 and was unfamiliar with HLS. The immigration judge found Yanez Cruz’s testimony to be credible. However, Yanez Cruz was federally indicted in this case before any ultimate ruling was issued on his immigration status.

 First Assistant United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Matthew B. Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; Essex County District Attorney Jonathan W. Blodgett; Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden; Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox; and Lynn Police Chief Christopher Reddy made the announcement.

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

Updated November 10, 2022

Violent Crime