Greenbelt, Maryland – A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging the following defendants in connection with a conspiracy to participate in murder in aid of a racketeering enterprise known as the La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13:
Jorge Enrique Moreno-Aguilar, aka “Flaco” and “Castigato,” age 20, of District Heights, Maryland;
Juan Alberto Ortiz-Orellana, aka “Chele” and “Furia,” age 25, of District Heights;
Melvin Marquez-Sanchez, aka “Demente,” age 19, formerly of New York;
Carlos Beltran-Flores, aka “Joker,” age 22, of Hyattsville, Maryland;
Francisco Hernandez, aka “Chicle,” age 20, of Silver Spring, Maryland;
Wilmer Argueta, a/a “Chengo” and “Happy,” age 21, of Hyattsville;
Eric Antonio Mejia-Ramos, aka “Flaco,” age 20, of Hyattsville;
Minor Perez-Chach, aka “Minor Chach-Perez,” “Little Bad” and “Bryant Sacarias,
age 23, of Hyattsville; and
Miguel Angel Manjivar, aka “Garra” and “Masflow,” age 21, of Hyattsville.
The superseding indictment was returned on March 7, 2014 and unsealed yesterday upon the arrest of defendant Hernandez. All of the defendants are in custody.
The superseding indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman 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.
“Attacking and dismantling violent criminal enterprises like MS-13 is one of HSI’s highest enforcement priorities,” said HSI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge William Winter. “Our investigation revealed that MS-13 is an enterprise that participates in criminal acts, such as murder, attempted murder, violent assaults, witness intimidation and retaliation, and extortion. HSI special agents will continue to work with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to target MS-13 members and other transnational criminal street gangs that are a rising public safety threat in our communities.”
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.
The 12 count indictment alleges that from prior to 2009 to February 2014, the defendants were members and associates of MS-13 who planned and committed murders, attempted murders, assaults and robberies in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Gang members also allegedly extorted high school students and brothel operators, committed witness tampering and obstructed justice, among other crimes.
More specifically, the indictment alleges the following murders. On January 10, 2011, defendant Manjivar and several other MS-13 members repeatedly stabbed two individuals believed to be affiliated with the rival 18th Street Gang, killing one and attempting to kill the other. On August 28, 2012, defendant Mejia-Ramos and others murdered a woman believed to be a rival gang member, by shooting her in the head. On February 23, 2013, defendant Perez-Chach and another MS-13 member murdered a person believed to be a former MS-13 member who had testified in federal court against several MS-13 members in a prior federal racketeering prosecution in Maryland, attacking him with a knife and machete.
From January 2011 to December 2012, Manjivar, Hernandez, Beltran-Flores, Mejia-Ramos and other MS-13 members are alleged to have planned and/or participated in the attempted murder of four individuals believed to be affiliated with rival gangs including the 18th Street Gang, Adelphi Crew, Latin Kings and Lewisdale Crew. One of these victims was targeted for murder to prevent him from testifying at trial in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County against defendant Argueta.
Additionally, the indictment alleges that Hernandez, Beltran-Flores, Argueta and other MS-13 members threatened to kill a fellow gang member unless he paid them a weekly or bi-weekly “rent” or “tax,” which gang members collected from the victim from at least March to November, 2011. Five others are alleged to have been assaulted, including one victim who was stabbed with a butterfly knife.
Moreno-Aguilar, Ortiz-Orellana, Marquez-Sanchez, Beltran-Flores, Mejia-Ramos, Perez-Chach and Manjivar face a maximum sentence of life in prison for conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise, and Hernandez and Argueta face 20 years in prison. Moreno-Aguilar and Ortiz-Orellana also face a maximum sentence of life in prison for murder in aid of racketeering; murder resulting in the use of a gun; and using a firearm during a crime of violence. Beltran-Flores also faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for using a firearm during a crime of violence and 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit witness tampering and for witness tampering by attempted murder. Defendant Hernandez had his initial appearance in federal court in Greenbelt yesterday. The other defendants are expected to have their initial appearances beginning next week.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the HSI Baltimore, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Takoma Park Police Department and 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.