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Press Release

Four Additional Alleged MS-13 Members Charged In Violent Racketeering Conspiracy

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

Gang Members Allegedly Committed Murders, Attempted Murders, Stabbings,
Kidnapping, Extortion and Witness Tampering

Greenbelt, Maryland – A federal grand jury returned a second superseding indictment today charging the following four additional defendants, all of Hyattsville, in connection with a conspiracy to participate in murder in aid of a racketeering enterprise known as the La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13:

Hector Daniel Villanueva-Cortez, a/k/a “Muertito,” age 24;
Roni Arriola-Palma, a/k/a “Maniako,” age 24;
Luiz Guzman-Ventura, a/k/a “Casper,” and “Chele,” age 20, and
Jose Rodriguez-Nunez, a/k/a “El Killer,” age 25.

The second superseding indictment was returned yesterday, June 16th, under seal and unsealed today at the initial appearance for Arriola-Palma this afternoon in federal court in Greenbelt. Arriola-Palma was arrested this morning by HSI agents, as a result of assistance provided by the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office. Charges remain pending against eight of the original defendants, listed below. A ninth original defendant, Francisco Hernandez, aka “Chicle,” age 21, of Silver Spring, Maryland, has pleaded guilty to his participation in the conspiracy. All of the defendants are in custody.

The superseding indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Chief Mark A. Magaw of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; Chief Alan Goldberg of the Takoma Park Police Department; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.

“Attacking and dismantling violent criminal enterprises like MS-13 is one of HSI's highest enforcement priorities,” said HSI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge William Winter. "Our investigation revealed that MS-13 is an enterprise that participates in criminal acts, such as murder, attempted murder, violent assaults, witness intimidation and retaliation, and extortion. HSI special agents will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to target MS-13 members and other transnational criminal street gangs that are a rising public safety threat in our communities.”

MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, Maryland.

The 12 count indictment alleges that from prior to 2009 to February 2014, the defendants were members and associates of MS-13 who planned and committed murders, attempted murders, kidnapping, assaults and robberies in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Gang members also allegedly committed extortion and witness tampering, among other crimes.

More specifically, the second superseding indictment alleges the following additional acts. On January 3, 2010, co-defendant Wilmer Argueta and other MS-13 members attempted to kidnap and assault two victims in the area of East West Highway and Riggs Road. After the two victims fled in different directions, several MS-13 members allegedly caught one of the victims in a nearby wooded area and sexually assaulted her as retribution for associating with a rival gang.

The second superseding indictment alleges that on January 13, 2011, Arriola-Palma drove a van containing defendants Argueta, Carlos Beltran-Flores and Miguel Angel Manjivar. They passed a victim walking on the side of the road near the Fort Totten Metro Station. After getting out of the vehicle, they sprayed the victim with pepper spray, dragged him into the van and held him on the van floor, kicking and stabbing him while they drove to the area of Chillum Manor Road in Hyattsville. The defendants allegedly attempted to murder the victim by strangling him with a belt, stripping him of his clothes and stabbing him repeatedly. The defendants took the victim’s belongings and left him naked and unconscious in the woods, believing that he was dead.

According to the second superseding indictment, from around September to November 2011, defendant Argueta ordered a “greenlight,” which is an order to kill, from inside Prince George County Corrections Facility on a victim who planned to testify against him in Circuit Court for Prince George’s County. The indictment also alleges that on December 4, 2013, Villanueva-Cortez and another MS-13 member attempted to murder a suspected rival gang member.

The indictment further alleges that on December 5, 2012, Rodriguez-Nunez and Guzman-Ventura were driving in the area of 23rd and Sheridan Avenue in Hyattsville when they spotted four individuals crossing a street frequented by rival gang members. After waiting for the individuals to pass, Rodriguez-Nunez and Guzman-Ventura fired several shots at the group, killing one of the victims and attempting to murder the other three.

The indictment also alleges that on March 9, 2014, while in custody in Washington, D.C., defendants Minor Perez-Chach and Melvin Marquez-Sanchez attacked and stabbed another inmate when that person refused their demands to join MS-13.

All four additional defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison for conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise. Villanueva-Cortez also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering. Villanueva-Cortez, Guzman-Ventura and Rodriguez-Nunez are expected to have their initial appearances in the next week in federal court in Greenbelt.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

The following defendants were named in the superseding indictment, and charges remain pending against them in the second superseding indictment:

Jorge Enrique Moreno-Aguilar, aka “Flaco” and “Castigato,” age 20, of District Heights, Maryland;
Juan Alberto Ortiz-Orellana, aka “Chele” and “Furia,” age 25, of District Heights;
Melvin Marquez-Sanchez, aka “Demente,” age 19, formerly of New York;
Carlos Beltran-Flores, aka “Joker,” age 22, of Hyattsville, Maryland;
Wilmer Argueta, a/a “Chengo” and “Happy,” age 22, of Hyattsville;
Eric Antonio Mejia-Ramos, aka “Flaco,” age 20, of Hyattsville;
Minor Perez-Chach, aka “Minor Chach-Perez,” “Little Bad” and “Bryant Sacarias,
age 23, of Hyattsville; and
Miguel Angel Manjivar, aka “Garra” and “Masflow,” age 22, of Hyattsville.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the HSI Baltimore, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office and its Strategic Investigations Unit, the Takoma Park Police Department and Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein also recognized the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office, Prince George’s County Department of Corrections, HSI Baltimore’s Operation Community Shield Task Force, and the Maryland Department of Corrections Intelligence Unit for their assistance. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney William D. Moomau and Kevin L. Rosenberg, a Trial Attorney with the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who are prosecuting this case.

Updated January 26, 2015