Fourth MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty in Violent Racketeering Conspiracy
Admitted to His Participation in a Murder and Two Attempted Murders, Robberies, and Extortion
Greenbelt, Maryland – Carlos Beltran-Flores, aka “Joker,” age 23, of Hyattsville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, including murder, attempted murder, assault, extortion and robbery; and carrying, using and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.
The guilty plea 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; Acting Special Agent in Charge Ivan Arvelo 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.
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. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence both to maintain membership and discipline within the gang and against rival gangs.
According to his plea agreement and court documents, from 2009 until at least 2013, Beltran-Flores was a member of the Peajes Locos Salvatrucha clique of MS-13. Beltran-Flores and MS-13 members committed crimes to further the interests of the gang, including murder, assault, robbery, extortion by threat of violence, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and witness retaliation.
Beltran-Flores admitted that on September 3, 2010, he and another MS-13 member assaulted and robbed a victim in the area of New Hampshire Avenue in Hyattsville. On November 15, 2010, Beltran-Flores and other MS-13 members robbed two other victims in the area of Jamestown Road in Hyattsville, and one member stabbed the victims.
On January 10, 2011, Beltran-Flores and other MS-13 members murdered a person they believed was a rival gang member, and attempted to murder another purported rival gang member, in the parking lot of the former Shoppers Food Warehouse on University Boulevard in Hyattsville. The group repeatedly punched, kicked, and stabbed the victims, one of which survived the attack. Beltran-Flores helped plan the attack and afterwards, hid the murder weapons in a nearby park.
On January 13, 2011, after attending a Peajes clique meeting at which a member criticized other MS-13 members for not committing enough violent crimes, Beltran-Flores, co-defendant Wilmer Argueta, and other MS-13 members got into a mini-van driven by co-defendant Roni Arriola-Palma. Near the Fort Totten Metro Station, they saw a person they believed was an associate of a rival gang. Argueta and other MS-13 members attacked the victim and dragged him back into the mini-van. Beltran-Flores and others continued to assault him, at times attempting to use a seat belt to strangle the victim. Arriola-Palma eventually parked near a dead end in the vicinity of Chillum Manor Road. Beltran-Flores, Argueta, and others kicked, stabbed and choked the victim. They forcefully stripped the victim of all of his heavy winter clothing in order to stab him. After assaulting the victim near the mini-van, they dragged the victim into the woods, where they left him for dead, and fled. The victim survived the attack.
From March to November, 2011, members of the Peajes clique threatened to kill a fellow MS-13 gang member unless he paid them. Beltran-Flores arranged the extortion payments using Facebook and text messaging to relay the extortion demands to the victim. Beltran-Flores picked up several extortion payments, and sent other members to pick up payments on his behalf.
From September to November 2011 and while incarcerated in the Prince George’s County Corrections Facility, Argueta ordered MS-13 members to kill a victim who planned to testify against him in state court. Acting on this order to kill, Beltran-Flores and two others drove to the victim’s house on November 15, 2011, and spotted the victim in front of his house. Beltran-Flores shot at the victim several times from the moving car, striking the victim once in the chest. A short car chase ensued during which Beltran-Flores threw the gun out of the car. He was arrested with the two other MS-13 members. The victim survived the attack.
Beltran-Flores and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Beltran-Flores will be sentenced to between 20 and 40 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus has scheduled sentencing for November 13, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. Beltran-Flores remains detained pending sentencing.
Francisco Hernandez, age 22, Roni Arriola-Palma, age 25, and Wilmer Argueta, age 23, all of Hyattsville, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the racketeering conspiracy and are scheduled to be sentenced on June 29, June 30, and August 4, 2015, respectively.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended HSI Baltimore, the Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Takoma Park Police Department, and the 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, 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 Attorneys William D. Moomau, Lindsay Eyler Kaplan, and Trial Attorney Kevin L. Rosenberg with the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who are prosecuting this case.