You are here

Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, March 17, 2020

MS-13 Gang Member Pleads Guilty To Murder And Extortion Charges

Santa Cruz gang member hunted and conspired to kill rival gang members

SAN FRANCISCO – Alexander Martinez-Flores, a/k/a Pocar, pleaded guilty to using a firearm to cause murder, conspiracy to commit murder and extortion, and racketeering conspiracy in connection with his role as a member and former leader of a local MS-13 gang clique, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Tatum King. The guilty plea was received by the Honorable Edward J. Davila, United States District Judge.     

The transnational street gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, has local chapters, or “cliques,” throughout the world, including El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States. MS-13 members and associates engage in crimes such as murder, narcotics trafficking, extortion, and obstruction of justice. MS-13 members enforce gang rules and protect gang territory with violence, including murder. The Santa Cruz Salvatrucha Locos (SCSL) is an MS-13 clique that operates in and around Santa Cruz, California.

According to his plea agreement, Martinez-Flores, 29, of Santa Cruz, Calif., was a member of the SCSL clique of the MS-13 gang from at least January 2013 to February 2017, and the first-in-command from about February to August 2014. Martinez-Flores and SCSL members engaged in violence, drug trafficking and extortion. Martinez-Flores coordinated with MS-13 members in El Salvador and other places to carry out the directives of the gang’s leadership in and around Santa Cruz. Martinez-Flores directed how SCSL money was maintained and spent.

The plea agreement describes Martinez-Flores’ role in patrolling SCSL’s claimed gang territory in Santa Cruz. Martinez-Flores admitted in the plea agreement that he and other gang members patrolled their territory with firearms and knives and beat up, stabbed, threatened or shot rival gang members in order to maintain control over this turf. Martinez-Flores admitted that he hunted for rivals to kill on many occasions.

In the plea agreement, Martinez-Flores admitted that he was one of the shooters in a murder committed by SCSL gang members. Martinez-Flores admitted that in April 2016 the gang discussed seeking approval from El Salvador to kill a suspected rival gang member. The murder was approved and Martinez-Flores was one of the gang members tasked with killing the victim. On September 22, 2016, the victim was shot and killed, and Martinez-Flores was one of the shooters. Martinez-Flores celebrated the murder with other MS-13 members.

The plea agreement also describes Martinez-Flores’ role in supporting SCSL’s extortion and drug trafficking activities. The plea agreement describes how on one occasion in July 2016, Martinez-Flores collected an extortion payment—the “monthly fee due to SCSL”—from a local drug dealer.

A federal grand jury returned a second superseding indictment against Martinez-Flores and others on August 16, 2018. The indictment charged Martinez-Flores with one count of racketeering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); one count of conspiracy to commit extortion by force, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); one count of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5); one count of murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(1); one count of use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A); and one count of use of a firearm causing murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j)(1)(A). Martinez-Flores pleaded guilty to the racketeering conspiracy, conspiracies to commit extortion and murder, and use of a firearm causing murder counts. If Martinez-Flores complies with and the court accepts the plea agreement, the remaining counts will be dismissed at sentencing.

Judge Davila scheduled Martinez-Flores’ sentencing hearing for June 8, 2020, at 1:30 p.m. Pursuant to the terms of his plea agreement, Martinez-Flores has agreed that a reasonable and appropriate disposition of his case would include a term of 30 years in prison and a five-year term of supervised release. The court also may order payment of a fine and restitution, and forfeiture. However, any sentence will 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.

Nine of the other charged defendants have already pleaded guilty for their roles in the SCSL and MS-13 criminal enterprise and seven have been sentenced as reflected in the following chart:

Name

Charges

Sentence

Ismael Alvarenga-Rivera, a/k/a Casper

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Sentenced on September 23, 2019, to 90 months in prison

Willfredo Ayala-Garcia, a/k/a Chino

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Sentenced on September 17, 2019, to 80 months in prison

Jose David Abrego-Galdamez, a/k/a Largo

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a)

Sentenced on September 16, 2019, to 36 months in prison, consecutive to his sentence in CR 17-567 BLF

Gerber Morales, a/k/a Choco

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A)(viii)

Sentenced on September 17, 2019, to 72 months in prison

Emilio Escobar-Albarnga, a/k/a Diablo

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A)(viii)

Sentenced on January 20, 2020, to 60 months in prison

Josue Alcedis Escobar Cerritos, a/k/a Penguino

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A)(viii)

Sentenced on July 30, 2019, to 72 months in prison

Melvin Lopez, a/k/a Sharky

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); Conspiracy to Commit Murder, 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)

Sentenced on January 27, 2020, to 120 months in prison

Tomas Rivera, a/k/a Profugo, a/k/a Caballo, a/k/a Jonas Portillo Escobar

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); Conspiracy to Commit Murder, 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5).

Scheduled to be sentenced on April 13, 2020

Velarmino Escobar-Ayala, a/k/a  Meduza

Racketeering Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Conspiracy to Commit Extortion by Force, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); Conspiracy to Commit Murder, 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5)

Scheduled to be sentenced on May 4, 2020

The United States Attorney’s Office’s Organized Crime Strike Force is prosecuting the case. This prosecution is the result of an investigation conducted by HSI with the assistance of the Santa Cruz Police Department.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Updated March 17, 2020