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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 16, 2018

12 Alleged Members Of MS-13 In Santa Cruz Charged Federally With Racketeering Conspiracy, Murder, Arson, Extortion, And Other Crimes

SAN JOSE- A federal grand jury indicted twelve South Bay residents for a broad range of racketeering crimes including murder, arson, extortion by force, and drug trafficking, announced United States Attorney Alex G. Tse and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Ryan L. Spradlin.  The Second Superseding Indictment handed down today amends the charges previously brought against the defendant in April of this year.  The defendant all are alleged to be MS-13 gang members and the new charges now specifically include allegations that certain defendants conspired to commit, attempted to commit, and ultimately succeeded in committing murder. 

“MS-13 has presented a violent threat in the Santa Cruz area for years,” said U.S. Attorney Tse.  “The gang targeted many, including other immigrants from El Salvador, and they instilled fear in everyone who experienced or witnessed their brutality.”

The indictment alleges the following defendants conspired to engage in racketeering activities:
 

Velarmino Escobar-Ayala (aka Meduza) 

Tomas Rivera (aka Profugo, aka Caballo)

Ismael Alvarenga-Rivera (aka Casper) 

Willfredo Ayala-Garcia (aka Chino) 

Jose David Abrego-Galdamez (aka Largo) 

Melvin Lopez (aka Sharky) 

Alexander Martinez-Flores (aka Pocar)

Gerber Morales (aka Choco, aka Chuki)

Emilio Escobar-Albarnga (aka Diablo)

Josue Alcedis Escobar-Cerritos (aka Penguino, aka Chui)

Erick Escalante-Torres (aka Deceptico, aka Problematico)

Jose Noe Ramirez-Avelar (aka Chepito, aka Sparky)
 

According to the indictment, the defendants all engaged in racketeering for the purpose of preserving the power, territory, reputation, and profits of the MS-13 gang.  The indictment describes how members of MS-13 met regularly to discuss issues such as disciplining members and planning crimes.  The indictment provides a list of dates on which the defendants allegedly met and conspired to commit a broad array of crimes, including murder, to further the purposes of the gang.  

According to the indictment, differing members of the enterprise met at times to discuss targeting rival gang members for murder and deciding which gang members had an interest in murdering the targets. For example, the indictment alleges Escobar-Ayala, Rivera, Lopez, Martinez-Flores, Escalante-Torres, and Ramirez-Avelar conspired to commit a murder, and that all these defendants, except Lopez, actually committed the murder.  Similarly, the indictment alleges Escalante-Torres attempted to commit the murder of a separate victim.  In addition, the indictment describes how some members met to create plans to commit murder while other members actually attempted or succeeded in committing murder, and how still others attempted to destroy proof of the gang’s crimes by burning evidence.   

The indictment also describes how certain defendants conspired to extort property from drug dealers in Santa Cruz by threatening violence against the dealers and other persons close to them.  According to the indictment, from February 2013 through at least February of 2017, Escobar-Ayala, Rivera, Alvarenga-Rivera, Ayala-Garcia, Abrego-Galdamez, Lopez, and Martinez-Flores engaged in the extortion and threatened force, violence, and fear to obtain money that was demanded.  

Also, the indictment alleges all the defendants were engaged in a conspiracy engage in drug trafficking.  According to the indictment, from April 2012 until the present, the defendants conspired to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams of more of a mixture of substance containing methamphetamine. 

According to additional court papers filed by the government, the current charges in this case stem from a multi-year investigation into the activities of a violent Santa Cruz street gang known as Santa Cruz Salvatrucha Locos 13 (SCSL13).  The government’s papers state that “SCSL13 is a subset of the larger Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) gang organization.”  According to the government, the defendants all are alleged to be either active members or recruits performing criminal tasks on behalf of SCSL13.   

In sum, the charges pending against each defendant are as follows:
 

Defendant

Age

Charges

Maximum Statutory Penalty

All Defendants

 

 

Racketeering Conspiracy

18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)

Life in prison

5 years of supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Velarmino Escobar-Ayala (aka Meduza)

 

38

Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force

18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Life in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering

18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)

10 years in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Tomas Rivera (aka Profugo, aka Caballo)

 

25

Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force

18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Life in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering

18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)

10 years in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Ismael Alvarenga-Rivera (aka Casper)

 

39

Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force

18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Life in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Willfredo Ayala-Garcia (aka Chino)

 

33

Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force

18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Life in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Jose David Abrego-Galdamez (aka Largo)

 

38

Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force

18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Life in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Melvin Lopez (aka Sharky)

 

26

Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force

18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Life in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering

18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)

10 years in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Alexander Martinez-Flores (aka Pocar)

 

29

Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force

18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Life in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering

18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)

10 years in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Murder in Aid of Racketeering (18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1))

Death penalty eligible

Mandatory life in prison

5 years of supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Use/Possess/Brandish/Discharge of Firearm in Furtherance of Crime of Violence

18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)

Life in prison

5 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Use of Firearm in Furtherance of Crime of Violence Resulting in Death 18 U.S.C. § 924(j)(1)

Death penalty eligible

Life in prison

5 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Gerber Morales (aka Choco, aka Chuki)

 

30

Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii)

Life in prison

(minimum 10 years)

Lifetime of supervised release

(minimum 5 years)

Fine of $10,000,000

Emilio Escobar-Albarnga (aka Diablo)

 

37

Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii)

Life in prison

(minimum 10 years)

Lifetime of supervised release

(minimum 5 years)

Fine of $10,000,000

Josue Alcedis Escobar-Cerritos (aka Penguino, aka Chui)

 

30

Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine (21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(viii)

Life in prison

(minimum 10 years)

Lifetime of supervised release

(minimum 5 years)

Fine of $10,000,000

Erick Escalante-Torres (aka Deceptico, aka Problematico)

 

23

Accessory After the Fact to Murder in Aid of Racketeering

18 U.S.C. § 3

 

(2 counts)

15 years in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Use of Fire in Commission of Felony 18 U.S.C. § 844(h)

 

(2 counts)

10 years in prison

(mandatory and consecutive to any other term of imprisonment)

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering

18 U.S.C. §1959(a)(5)

10 years in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering

18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(3)

20 years in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Use/Possess/Brandish/Discharge of Firearm in Furtherance of Crime of Violence

18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)

 

(2 counts)

Life in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering

18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)

10 years in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Murder in Aid of Racketeering (18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1))

Death penalty eligible

Mandatory life in prison

5 years of supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Use of Firearm in Furtherance of Crime of Violence Resulting in Death 18 U.S.C. § 924(j)(1)

Death penalty eligible

5 years of supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Jose Noe Ramirez-Avelar (aka Chepito, aka Sparky)

28

Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering

18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)

10 years in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Murder in Aid of Racketeering (18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1))

Death penalty eligible

Mandatory life in prison

5 years of supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Use/Possess/Brandish/Discharge of Firearm in Furtherance of Crime of Violence

18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)

 

Life in prison

3 years supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

Use of Firearm in Furtherance of Crime of Violence Resulting in Death 18 U.S.C. § 924(j)(1)

Death penalty eligible

5 years of supervised release

Fine of the greater of $250,000, twice the gain to the defendant, or twice the loss inflicted on another

 

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  

In addition, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.  

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Alioto and Jeffrey Backhus are prosecuting the case.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the HSI. 

Topic(s): 
Firearms Offenses
Violent Crime
Updated August 30, 2018