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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 4, 2020

MS-13 Associate Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge of Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering and is Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison

Defendant Drove MS-13 Members to Location in Frederick Where Victim was Beheaded, Dismembered, and Buried in a Shallow Grave; Thirty Defendants Charged in this Case to Date

Baltimore, Maryland – Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar sentenced MS-13 associate Luis Cruz Rodriguez, age 23, of Frederick, Maryland, to 10 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, after Cruz Rodriguez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.  The guilty plea was entered on November 3, 2020, and Chief Judge Bredar imposed the sentence immediately following the plea.

The guilty plea and sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore Office; Acting Chief Dwight Sommers of the Frederick City Police Department; Frederick County State’s Attorney J. Charles Smith, III; Chief William Lowry of the Anne Arundel County Police Department; Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess; Interim Chief Hector Velez of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy; Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County 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 Frederick County, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County, Maryland.  Cruz Rodriguez admitted that from at least January 2017, he was an associate of the Fulton clique of MS-13 and agreed with members of MS-13 to conduct and participate in the gang’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, including conspiracy to commit murder, extortion, and drug distribution.

At all times of this conspiracy, members of MS-13 were 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 were expected to use any means necessary to force respect from those who showed disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence.  MS-13 had mottos consistent with its rules, beliefs, expectations and reputation including “mata, viola, controla,” which translates as, “kill, rape, control,” and “ver, oir y callar,” which means, “see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing.”

MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence both to maintain membership and discipline within the gang, as well as against rival gang members.  Participation in criminal activity by a member, particularly in violent acts directed at rival gangs or as directed by gang leadership, increase the respect accorded to that member, resulting in that member maintaining or increasing his position in the gang, and opens the door to a promotion to a leadership position.  One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, often referred to as “chavalas,” whenever possible. 

According to his plea agreement, in April 2017, Cruz Rodriguez conspired with MS-13 gang members to murder Victim 14.  According to court documents, the MS-13 members believed Victim 14 was a member of a rival gang.  Cruz Rodriguez was present when gang members were talking about how to kill Victim 14, and who would participate in the murder.  On the day of the murder, Cruz Rodriguez drove other gang members to a secluded area of Frederick, Maryland, where the MS-13 members were going to kill Victim 14.  Cruz Rodriguez was aware that he was transporting gang members so that they could participate in a murder.  At the spot in Frederick, MS-13 gang members murdered Victim 14, dismembered him, and buried his body.  After the murder, Cruz Rodriguez (who was not present during the murder) traveled back to the site of the murder and picked up gang members who had participated in the murder. 

In July 2017, investigators recovered Victim 14’s body from a clandestine grave in Frederick, Maryland.  The body had suffered from sharp force traumas and had been severed into seven pieces and decapitated.         

The murder of Victim 14 was intended to maintain and increase the status of MS-13 and to allow Cruz Rodriguez and other MS-13 members and associates to maintain or increase their status within the gang.    

A total of 30 defendants have been charged in this case with participating in a racketeering conspiracy and/or other crimes related to their association with MS-13.  A total of 20 defendants, including Cruz Rodriguez, have pleaded guilty to crimes related to their participation in MS-13 gang activities.

Anyone with information about MS-13 is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement.  The FBI and Homeland Security Investigations both have nationwide tiplines that you can call to report what you know.  You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 (1-866-787-6713), or you can call HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.                    

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI; HSI; the Frederick City Police Department; the Anne Arundel, Montgomery, and Prince George’s County Police Departments; and the Anne Arundel, Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George’s County State’s Attorneys for their work in the investigation, and recognized the Baltimore County Police Department for its assistance.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth S. Clark, Catherine K. Dick, and Matthew DellaBetta, who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.

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Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Contact: 
Marcia Murphy (410) 209-4854
Updated November 4, 2020