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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Maryland MS-13 Member Pleads Guilty To Violent Racketeering Conspiracy

Admitted Shooting and Killing an Individual Believed to be a Rival Gang Member

Greenbelt, Maryland –Luis Guzman-Ventura, a/k/a “Casper,” age 22, of Hyattsville, Maryland, pleaded today, just before the first day of trial, to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, including participating in a murder.                

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 Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Chief Hank Stawinski of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Chief Douglas Holland of the Hyattsville Police Department; and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks.

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 Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, and Frederick County, Maryland.  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.

According to his plea agreement and court documents, from at least 2010 through 2013, Guzman-Ventura conspired with members and associates of MS-13 to engage in 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. During that time, Guzman-Ventura was a member and associate of MS-13 and of the Weedons Clique of MS-13.

Specifically, Guzman-Ventura admitted that on December 5, 2012, he was the front seat passenger in a vehicle being driven by another MS-13 member, Jose Rodriguez-Nunez.  They were driving in the Lewisdale area of Prince George’s County, looking for rival gang members.  Guzman-Ventura admitted that he had a hand gun and shot at three individuals believed to be rival gang members, killing one and wounding another.  After the shooting, Rodriguez-Nunez drove away from the scene.  When police stopped the vehicle a short time later, Guzman-Ventura got out of the vehicle and ran away.

Guzman-Ventura and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement, Guzman-Ventura will be sentenced to between 312 and 360 months in prison.  U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus has scheduled sentencing for January 4, 2017.  Guzman-Ventura remains detained pending sentencing.

Jose Rodriguez-Nunez, a/k/a “Killer,” age 27, of Hyattsville, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to being the driver in this drive-by shooting and is expected to be sentenced to between 216 and 240 months in prison at his sentencing, scheduled on January 9, 2017, at 10:00 a.m.  Rodriguez-Nunez also remains detained. 

In addition, eight other defendants have pleaded guilty and three have been convicted at trial for their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended HSI Baltimore, the Prince George’s County Police Department, the Hyattsville Police Department; and the Prince George’s 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 Catherine Dick with the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, who are prosecuting this case.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated September 13, 2016