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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 13, 2015

MS-13 Member Sentenced to Over 15 Years for Leadership Role in Violent Racketeering Conspiracy

Participated in Assault, Kidnapping and Attempted Murder of a State’s Witness

Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus sentenced Wilmer Argueta, a/k/a “Chengo,” age 23, of Hyattsville, Maryland, today to 188 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.

The sentence 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 Watson 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, from 2009 until at least 2012, Argueta was a member and leader of the Peajes Locos Salvatrucha clique of MS-13.  He and members of the Peajes 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.

On January 3, 2010, Argueta and other MS-13 members attempted to kidnap and assault two individuals with weapons because Argueta and his co-conspirators believed one of the individuals was associating with a rival gang.  After the individuals fled in different directions, several MS-13 members caught one of the victims and sexually assaulted her as retribution for associating with a rival gang.

In addition on January 13, 2011, Argueta attended a Peajes clique meeting during which another MS-13 member criticized members of the clique for not committing enough violent crimes and encouraging clique members to target rival gang members with acts of violence.  After the meeting, Argueta and other MS-13 members strangled and stabbed an individual whom the clique members believed to be a member of a rival gang.  Although the MS-13 members left the victim for dead, he survived.

Argueta also admitted that between March and November 2011, he and other members of the Peajes clique extorted a former MS-13 associate under the threat of a “greenlight” (an order to kill).  Argueta ordered other MS-13 associates to relay the death threats to the victim, and he contacted the victim himself on multiple occasions to arrange extortion payments.

Between September and November 2011, Argueta conspired to kill an individual who had been assaulted by Argueta and other MS-13 members and who had agreed to testify as a witness against Argueta in state court.  Specifically, Argueta admitted that, while incarcerated in the Prince George’s County Corrections Facility, he ordered the “greenlight” by contacting a co-conspirator who then relayed the instruction to other MS-13 members.  On Nov. 15, 2011, three MS-13 members drove to the victim/witness’ home, and one of the co-conspirators shot at the victim from a moving vehicle, striking the victim in the chest.  The victim survived.

To date, five of the 14 defendants charged in this case have pleaded guilty to participating in the racketeering conspiracy.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended HSI Baltimore, the Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, the Prince George’s County and Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Offices, and the Takoma Park Police Department 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 prosecuted this case.

Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated August 13, 2015