Baltimore, Maryland – Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar sentenced MS-13 gang members, Francisco Ramirez Pena, a/k/a Tepo and Advertencia, age 25, of Edgewater, Maryland, and Edwin Ruiz Urrutia, a/k/a Sylvestre, age 21, of Silver Spring, Maryland, to 25 years each in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, on a federal racketeering charge related to their participation in a violent racketeering conspiracy, specifically MS-13, including a murder. An MS-13 associate, Darvin Guerra Zacarias, a/k/a Chapin, age 27, of Silver Spring, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for his role in the conspiracy to murder Victim 18. Ruiz Urrutia and Guerra Zacarias were sentenced today and Ramirez Pena was sentenced yesterday.
The sentences were 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; Chief Edward G. Hargis of the Frederick Police Department; Frederick County State’s Attorney J. Charles Smith, III; Chief Timothy J. Altomare of the Anne Arundel County Police Department; Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess; Chief Henry P. Stawinski III of the Prince George’s County Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy; Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.
“Federal, state, and local law enforcement will use all the tools at our disposal to arrest and prosecute MS-13 gang members who prey on our neighbors,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “We will not rest until we dismantle this organization and remove the criminals who terrorize our communities—including the Central American immigrant communities in Maryland. I urge anyone with information about MS-13’s criminal activities to call federal law enforcement. You can reach the FBI at 1-866-STP-MS13 or HSI at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.”
“These sentences show that a membership in MS-13 usually ends where it should - behind bars for decades in a federal prison,” said Jennifer Boone, special agent in charge of the Baltimore Division of the FBI. “At the FBI, we are committed to staying in the fight until this plague is purged from our communities.”
“HSI is committed to investigating and disrupting the violence MS-13 perpetrates in our communities,” said John Eisert, Special Agent in Charge for HSI Baltimore.
MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador and other Central American countries. 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. From at least January 2017, Ramirez Pena, Ruiz Urrutia, and Guerra Zacarias were members and associates of the Fulton Locotes Salvatrucha clique of MS-13.
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 their plea agreements, Ramirez Pena, Ruiz Urrutia, and Guerra Zacarias conspired with other MS-13 members and associates to engage in racketeering activity, including a murder, conspiracies to commit murder, extortion, and drug trafficking, in order to further the interests of the gang.
Murder in Crownsville. In June 2017, MS-13 gang members believed that Victim 18 was an associate of the rival 18th Street gang. Guerra-Zacarias was present when gang members, including Ramirez Pena and Ruiz Urrutia, were talking about how to lure out Victim 18 in order to murder her. On the day of the murder, Guerra-Zacarias picked up MS-13 gang members, along with a female associate of the gang who was supposed to lure out Victim 18, and drove them to meet with Victim 18. The female got Victim 18 to enter Guerra-Zacarias’s car, at which point they drove to another location where Ramirez Pena and other MS-13 gang members entered the car and subdued Victim 18. Guerra-Zacarias then drove them all to a secluded area in Crownsville, Maryland, where other gang members, including Ruiz Urrutia had dug a grave and gathered weapons. Guerra-Zacarias dropped Victim 18 and the gang members off, then he and the female co-conspirator left. Victim 18 started screaming and gang members subdued her by choking her. Ramirez Pena, Ruiz Urrutia and other MS-13 gang members then dragged her to the site of the grave and all present attacked her with a machete and knives until she was dead. Victim 18’s body was then dismembered and buried in the grave.
In September 2017, investigators recovered Victim 18’s body from a clandestine grave in Crownsville, Maryland. The medical examiner found that the cause of death was homicide. The victim had suffered numerous blunt and sharp force traumas, her head had been severed, and her body cut into several pieces.
The murder of Victim 18 was intended to maintain and increase the status of MS-13 and allow members to maintain or increase their status within the gang.
Drug Distribution. As stated in their plea agreements, members of the Fulton clique, including Ramirez Pena and Ruiz Urrutia, also conspired to distribute marijuana. As a part of that conspiracy, gang members would obtain bulk quantities of marijuana and then break it up for distribution. At least a portion of the proceeds from the drug sales would go to the gang to further its objectives. It was reasonably foreseeable to the defendants that the conspiracy would distribute at least five kilograms of marijuana.
A total of 29 defendants have been charged in this case with participating in a racketeering conspiracy and/or other crimes related to their association with MS-13, including 18 defendants charged in the fifth superseding indictment filed on October 21, 2019. A total of 13 defendants 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 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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