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Press Release

Maryland MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty In Violent Racketeering Conspiracy

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

Admitted his Participation in an Attempted Murder and Extortion

Greenbelt, Maryland – Roni Arriola-Palma, age 24, of Hyattsville, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as the La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, including an attempted murder and extortion.

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; 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.

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 the statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, from 2009 until at least 2012, Arriola-Palma was a member and leader of the Peajes Locos Salvatrucha clique of MS-13. Arriola Palma and MS-13 members in the Peajes clique and other MS-13 cliques 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.

Arriola-Palma admitted that from January 2010 through at least May 2011, he attended MS-13 leadership meetings in Maryland as the representative and leader of the Peajes clique.

According to the plea agreement, on January 13, 2011, Arriola-Palma attended a Peajes clique meeting with other MS-13 members near the Greenbelt Metro Station. Another MS-13 member spoke at the meeting, criticizing members of the clique for not committing enough violent crimes on behalf of MS-13, and encouraging clique members to find rival gang members and commit acts of violence against them.

Arriola-Palma admitted that after the meeting ended, he drove other MS-13 members in a mini-van. Near the Fort Totten Metro Station, they saw a person they believed was an associate of a rival gang. MS-13 members attacked the victim and dragged him back into the mini-van, where they continued to assault him. Arriola-Palma drove the mini-van around Hyattsville, eventually parking near a dead end in the vicinity of Chillum Manor Road. After Arriola-Palma stopped the mini-van, MS-13 members kicked, stabbed and choked the victim. Since the victim was wearing heavy winter clothing, Arriola-Palma and other MS-13 members forcefully stripped the victim of all clothing, in order to stab the victim. After the assault, two MS-13 members dragged the victim into the woods, where one of the gang members strangled the victim with his belt. When they returned from the woods, they informed the other members that the victim was dead. Arriola-Palma then drove the group of MS-13 members away from the scene. 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 a weekly or bi-weekly “rent” or “tax,” which gang members collected from the victim. Arriola-Palma admitted that he accepted payments that he knew were proceeds from the extortion scheme from two other MS-13 members.

Arriola-Palma faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus has scheduled sentencing for March 9, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.

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 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