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Press Release

MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Conspiracy

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

BOSTON – An MS-13 member pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston to racketeering conspiracy.

Nelson Cruz Rodriguez Cartagena, a/k/a “Inquieto,” 24, a Salvadoran national illegally residing in Everett, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy.  U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young scheduled sentencing for July 9, 2019. Rodriguez Cartagena was arrested in Everett and charged in June 2018 after law enforcement determined that he had reentered the United States.

According to court documents, MS-13 is a violent, transnational criminal organization whose branches, or “cliques,” operate throughout the United States, including in Massachusetts. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the group.  It is alleged that most of the MS-13 cliques in Massachusetts, including the Everett Locos Salvatrucha (ELS) clique, belonged to MS-13’s East Coast Program, and that these cliques worked both independently and cooperatively to engage in criminal activity and to assist one another in avoiding detection by law enforcement.

Rodriguez Cartagena is a full member, or “homeboy,” in MS-13’s ELS clique. On recorded prison calls with a detained ELS clique leader, Rodriguez Cartagena discussed buying guns for the Everett clique; maintaining and supervising the clique’s marijuana trafficking business; the need to collect dues from clique members; the need to send money to MS-13 leaders in El Salvador due on the 13th of each month; and reporting on the clique’s day-to-day racketeering activities. When the clique leader began to suspect that a member of the ELS clique had cooperated with law enforcement leading to his arrest, he enlisted Rodriguez Cartagena’s help to ferret out the informant. Rodriguez Cartagena provided the true names of two young Everett clique members, and the leader concluded that one of them, Jose Aguilar Villanueva, a/k/a “Fantasma,” was the clique member responsible for his arrest. Once ELS (incorrectly) identified Villanueva as an informant, members of the Everett clique, including Rodriguez Cartagena, met at the clique’s “destroyer house,” – a residence where clique members stored knives, machetes, marijuana, and money – to plan the murder of Villanueva. Ultimately, on the night of July 5, 2015, two young ELS probationary members, or “chequeos,” lured Villanueva into a park in Lawrence and stabbed him to death. Villanueva was 16 years old.

The charge of RICO conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Rodriguez Cartagena will face deportation proceedings upon completion of any sentence imposed. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police; Commissioner Carol A. Mici of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections; Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger; Suffolk County Sheriff Steven W. Thompkins; Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins; Middlesex County District Attorney Marian T. Ryan; Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett; Boston Police Commissioner William Gross; Chelsea Police Chief Brian A. Kyes; Everett Police Chief Steven A. Mazzie; Lynn Police Chief Michael Mageary; Revere Police Chief James Guido; and Somerville Police Chief David Fallon made the announcement.

Updated April 8, 2019

Violent Crime