MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Federal Racketeering Conspiracy, Including Participating in a Murder
Three MS-13 Co-Defendants Previously Pleaded Guilty to the Same Charge, Including Their Participation in the Murder
Baltimore, Maryland – Daniel Flores-Ventura, a/k/a Necio, age 26, of Aspen Hill, Maryland, pleaded guilty on April 2, 2019, to conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, including participating in a murder. Co-defendants Vilas Sail Argueta-Bermudez, a/k/a Happy, Little Happy, and Enchilada, age 32; Michael Campos-Lemus, a/k/a Humilde, age 25, both of Aspen Hill; and Wilians Ernesto Lovos-Ayala, a/k/a Tigre, age 26, of Woodbridge, Virginia, previously pleaded guilty to the same charge.
The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Acting Special Agent in Charge Jennifer L. Moore of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Chief Edward Hargis of the Frederick Police Department; and Chief Barry M. Barnard of Prince William County, Virginia Police.
“The convictions of these four defendants, and our ongoing work with our law enforcement partners to bring other gang members to justice, demonstrate our unflagging commitment to remove MS-13 and its associated violence from our communities,” said United States Attorney Hur. “We simply will not tolerate the wanton violence that MS-13 promotes.”
MS-13 is a gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, with members operating in the State of Maryland, including Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Frederick County, and throughout the United States. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13 often work together cooperatively to engage in criminal activity and to assist one another in avoiding detection by law enforcement. In Maryland and the surrounding area, these cliques include Molinos Locos Salvatruchas (“Molinos”), Uniones Locos Salvatruchas (“Uniones”), Parkview Locos Salvatrucha (“PVLS”), Normandie Locos Salvatrucha (“NLS” or “Normandie”), Sailors Locos Salvatrucha Westside (“SLSW” or “Sailors”), Langley Park Salvatrucha (“LPS”), Weedoms Locos Salvatrucha (“Weedoms”), and Cabanas Locos Salvatruchas (“Cabanas”).
To protect the gang and to enhance its reputation, MS-13 members and associates are expected to use any means necessary to force respect from those who show disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence. MS-13’s creed is based on one of its mottos, “Mata, roba, viola, controla,” which translates to, “kill, steal, rape, control.”
According to their plea agreements, from about 2015 Flores-Ventura, Lovos-Ayala, and Campos-Lemus were all members and associates of the Uniones clique of MS-13. Co-defendant Argueta-Bermudez was a member and associate of the Molinos clique of MS-13. The defendants admitted to participating in numerous acts in furtherance of the racketeering conspiracy, including drug sales and murder.
As detailed in their plea agreements, the defendants admitted that beginning in June or July 2015, Flores-Ventura, Argueta-Bermudez, Campos-Lemus, and Lovos-Ayala conspired to murder Victim-1, whom they believed to be a member of the rival 18th Street gang. On July 16, 2015, the conspirators lured Victim-1 from Maryland to Virginia, on the pretext that Victim-1 was going to participate in a “court,” a disciplinary beating to be administered to another individual.
Flores-Ventura admitted that he drove Victim-1 from Silver Spring, Maryland, to Woodbridge, Virginia, in order to kill Victim-1. Argueta-Bermudez and Campos-Lemus also drove to Woodbridge, Virginia, to participate in the murder. Lovos-Ayala and the other MS-13 members and associates met in a wooded location in Woodbridge, where Flores-Ventura struck Victim-1 on the head. Lovos-Ayala, Argueta-Bermudez, Campos-Lemus, and other members and associates of MS-13 then struck and stabbed Victim-1 with machetes and knives until Victim-1 was dead.
The defendants admitted that the murder of Victim-1 served to maintain or increase the status of MS-13 within the community and to maintain or increase the status of the defendants and other MS-13 members who participated in the murder.
The defendants all face a maximum sentence of life in prison. Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar has scheduled sentencing for Campos-Lemus on July 24, 2019; for Argueta-Bermudez on August 19, 2019; for Lovos-Ayala on August 20, 2019, and for Flores-Ventura on August 27, 2019, all at 10:00 a.m.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended HSI Baltimore, the FBI, the Frederick Police Department, and the Prince William County Police Department for their work in the investigation, and thanked Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert for his office’s assistance. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Kenneth Clark, Catherine K. Dick, and Matthew DellaBetta who are prosecuting this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case.
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