MS-13 Gang Member Sentenced to 26 Years in Federal Prison for Racketeering Conspiracy Involving a Violent Murder and for Drug Distribution and Firearms Violations
Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury in Maryland has indicted four MS-13 gang members today on federal charges in connection with their MS-13 gang activities, specifically for conspiracy to destroy and conceal evidence in connection with a murder. Charged in the three-count indictment are Jose Domingo Ordonez-Zometa, a/k/a “Felon,” age 31, of Landover Hills, Maryland; Jose Rafael Ortega-Ayala, age 28, of Washington, D.C.; Jose Henry Hernandez-Garcia, age 26, of no fixed address; and Kevin Alexis Rodriguez-Flores, age 20, of Stafford, Virginia.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge James A. Dawson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington Field Office Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore Office; Interim Chief of Police Hector Velez of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy; Colonel Edwin C. Roessler, Jr., Chief of the Fairfax County Police Department; and Sheriff David P. Decatur of the Stafford County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office.
MS-13 is a national and transnational 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 Maryland, Virginia, and throughout the United States. Members of MS-13 are expected to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang from rival gang members and other persons. To protect the gang and to enhance its reputation, MS-13 members are expected to use any means necessary to force respect from those who showed disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the gang. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible. Another principal rule of MS-13 is that its members must never cooperate with law enforcement. Violation of this rule results in an order of death for the offender.
According to indictment, the defendants were members and associates of the Los Ghettos Criminales Salvatruchas (“LGCS” or “Ghettos”) clique of MS-13, with Ordonez being the leader of the LGCS clique. MS-13 members and associates met on a regular basis to, among other things, discuss gang affairs and report on acts of violence committed by their members, with the goal of inciting and encouraging further violence. Each clique held clique meetings where business specific to that clique was discussed. Any perceived indiscretions by members and associates for violations of MS-13 rules were discussed at clique meetings, and punishments known as “courts” or “violations” were issued. Courts or violations often took the form of beatings by fellow MS-13 members. More serious violations resulted in the issuance of a “greenlight.” A greenlight was an order and/or approval to kill.
The indictment alleges that on March 8, 2019, Ordonez held a meeting for LGCS clique members at his residence to discuss clique matters, including recent contacts that an LGCS member (Victim 1) had with police. During the meeting, Ordonez questioned Victim 1 about his/her recent interaction with police and other matters. As a result of suspicions that Victim 1 was cooperating with police, the defendants and at least one other MS-13 member allegedly assaulted Victim 1 and another LGCS member who attempted to defend Victim 1 from the assault. The assault on Victim 1 continued, with Victim 1 being beaten, cut, and stabbed, and culminated with Ordonez, as LGCS clique leader, allegedly ordering Victim 1 be killed. The indictment alleges that Ortega, Hernandez, Rodriguez, and other LGCS clique members stabbed and murdered Victim 1 on Ordonez’ orders, for reasons including suspicions that Victim 1 had cooperated with law enforcement.
According to the indictment, Ordonez, as LGCS leader, directed Ortega, Hernandez, Rodriguez, and other LGCS clique members and co-conspirators to conceal and destroy evidence of the murder. Specifically, the indictment alleges that Ordonez directed Ortega and other LGCS clique members and co-conspirators to transport the body of Victim 1 from Maryland to a secluded location in Stafford, Virginia; set the body of Victim 1 on fire; and destroy and conceal other evidence of the murder of Victim 1. Further, the indictment alleges that while the body of Victim 1 was being transported from the crime scene, Ordonez, Hernandez, and Rodriguez stayed at the crime scene and attempted to destroy, remove, and conceal evidence of the murder of Victim 1, including Victim 1’s blood. When Ortega returned from disposing of Victim 1’s body, the defendants and others attempted to remove any evidence of the murder, including Victim 1’s blood, from the vehicle used to transport the body.
All of the defendants are currently detained on related state criminal charges.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Initial appearances have not yet been scheduled in U.S. District Court.
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.
U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI, HSI Baltimore, the Prince George’s County Police Department, the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Fairfax County, Virginia Police Department, and the Stafford County, Virginia, Sheriff’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Moomau and Erin B. Pulice, who are prosecuting the case.
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