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Justice News

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MS-13 Leader Convicted by Federal Jury of RICO Conspiracy

BOSTON – A federal jury has convicted an MS-13 gang leader of racketeering conspiracy, following a two week trial in Boston.

Rafael Leoner Aguirre, a/k/a “Tremendo,” 22, a Salvadoran national, was found guilty of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy.  U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled sentencing for March 2, 2018.   

Leoner Aguirre was the leader of the Enfermos Criminal Salvatrucha clique (“Enfermos clique”) of La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.  The Enfermos clique was one of many MS-13 cliques operating in Massachusetts from 2013 to 2016. 

MS-13 is a violent, transnational criminal organization whose members engage in racketeering activity involving murder, robbery and drug trafficking.  Multiple witnesses testified during trial that MS-13’s core principles include a desire to control territory by killing rival gang members, and a desire to kill those who are suspected of cooperating with law enforcement.  Prospective members of MS-13 are required to complete an initiation process—to move from “paro,” to “observation,” to “chequeo,” to “homeboy.”  Further, MS-13 often recruits younger members in local high schools. 

In 2013 and early 2014, there were several “paros” and “chequeos” in Chelsea, Mass., who were associated with MS-13, but who lacked homeboy leadership.  These MS-13 members included Hector Ramires, a/k/a “Cuervo;” Bryan Galicia Barillas, a/k/a “Chucky;” David Lopez, a/k/a “Cilindro,” a/k/a “Villano;” Daniel Menjivar, a/k/a “Roca,” a/k/a “Sitiko;” Angel Pineda, a/k/a “Bravo;” and Kevin Ayala, a/k/a “Gallito.”   

In 2013, Leoner Aguirre entered the United States illegally from El Salvador, and in March 2014 he moved to the Chelsea area to provide leadership and to activate, organize, and supervise the group.   

Even before arriving in Chelsea, Leoner Aguirre began recruiting and planning MS-13 activities.  Among other things, Leoner Aguirre created recruitment videos for MS-13 and posted them on YouTube. This enabled younger members to view these videos, including one witness who testified that he first saw these videos while at a local high school.   

Once Leoner Aguirre arrived in Massachusetts, he encouraged members of the clique to attack and kill rival gang members, in addition to committing other racketeering acts such as robberies.  Leoner Aguirre himself committed a number of racketeering acts, including an attempted murder involving a shooting and another attempted murder involving a machete. More junior members of the Enfermos clique also committed a number of racketeering acts after Leoner Aguirre arrived in Massachusetts, including a shooting that resulted in the death of an innocent bystander.   

The other members of the Enfermos clique—Ramires, Galicia Barillas, Lopez, Menjivar, Pineda and Ayala—were also arrested and charged with RICO conspiracy and previously pleaded guilty.  Ramires pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement under which the parties will recommend 27 years in prison. Galicia Barillas pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement under which the parties will recommend 22 years in prison.  Lopez and Menjivar pleaded guilty pursuant to plea agreements in which there is no agreement on sentencing.  Pineda was previously sentenced to 93 months in prison and Ayala was sentenced to 42 months in prison.  The defendants are also subject to deportation upon the completion of their sentences.

Leoner Aguirre faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and will be subject to deportation upon the completion of his sentence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; Commissioner Thomas Turco of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections; Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger; Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Thompkins; Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley; Middlesex County District Attorney Marian T. Ryan; Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett; Boston Police Commissioner William Evans; Chelsea Police Chief Brian A. Kyes; Everett Police Chief Steven A. Mazzie; Lynn Police Chief Michael Mageary; Revere Police Chief James Guido; Somerville Police Chief David Fallon; and Herndon (VA) Police Chief Maggie A. DeBoard made the announcement.

Violent Crime
Updated November 21, 2017