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Justice News

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

MS-13 Member Extradited From Mexico On Murder, Gang Charges

SAN FRANCISCO – Defendant Jaime Balam (a/k/a “Tweety”) appeared in U.S. District Court in San Francisco today following his extradition from Mexico on a variety of gang-related charges, including racketeering conspiracy and racketeering murder, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Tatum King, Acting Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and  Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Francisco.

According to court records, a federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Jaime Balam on August 21, 2012. As alleged in the indictment, Balam, 26, a native and citizen of Mexico, was a member of La Mara Salvatrucha, or “MS-13,” a transnational criminal gang operating in various Central American countries and in numerous states across the United States. The defendant is alleged to have been a member of MS-13 who conspired to engage in the conduct of the affairs of MS-13 through a pattern of racketeering activity that included murder, attempted murder, and other acts of violence. The indictment also charges the defendant with the February 19, 2009, gang-related racketeering murder of a victim in Daly City, as well as three attempted racketeering murders arising from the same incident, and firearms-related offenses.

According to the indictment, MS-13 was a Sureño or “Southern” street gang, whose members generally were born outside the United States, claimed Southern California as their base, and acknowledged the primacy of the Mexican Mafia prison gang. The principal rivals of MS-13 in the San Francisco Bay Area were members of the area’s various Norteño or “Northern” gangs, whose members generally were born in the United States, claimed Northern California as their base, and acknowledged the primacy of the Nuestra Familia prison gang. According to the indictment, one of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must “hunt” – that is, attack and kill – Norteños and other rivals whenever possible. The indictment specifically alleges that all three defendants conspired to kill actual and suspected members of other gangs.

The 2012 indictment and the 2015 extradition of Balam stem from the government’s efforts, commenced in approximately 2005, to investigate and prosecute members of the MS-13 transnational gang operating in the Bay Area. Balam was arrested on October 21, 2013, in Mexico, and was subsequently ordered extradited to the United States on February 10, 2015.

“This successful extradition culminates years of outstanding investigative work by our federal law enforcement partners with Homeland Security Investigations, and illustrates the lengths to which we will go to pursue justice for victims,” stated United States Attorney Melinda Haag.

“As this case makes clear, we will not allow our borders to be barriers to bringing accused violent criminals to justice,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Tatum King. “In addition to the tireless efforts by HSI special agents in the Bay Area and Mexico City, we also owe a tremendous debt to authorities in Mexico, whose cooperation was vital to assuring this defendant’s return. HSI will continue to work closely with its law enforcement counterparts in Mexico to assure the safety of law-abiding citizens in both nations.”

Balam is charged with the following crimes, which carry the corresponding maximum terms of imprisonment:

  • Racketeering conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) – life in prison and a $250,000 fine;
  • Conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. ' 1959(a)(5)  – ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine;
  • Conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(6) – three years in prison and a $250,000 fine;
  • Murder in aid of racketeering activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. ' 1959(a)(1) – life imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine;
  • Attempted murder in aid of racketeering activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5) (three counts) – 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine;
  • Carrying and using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ' 924(c)(1)(A) – is a mandatory consecutive prison term of five years to life in prison (or seven years to life in prison if the firearm is brandished; or ten years to life in prison if the firearm is discharged), and a $250,000 fine;
  • Causing death in the commission of a violation of 18 U.S.C. ' 924(c) – if the death constitutes murder as defined in 18 U.S.C. ' 1111, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j) – life in prison and a $250,000 fine;
  • Being an alien unlawfully in possession of a firearm or ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5) – ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. ' 3553.  Please note, an indictment contains only allegations and, as with all defendants, Balam must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Balam appeared before the Honorable Joseph C. Spero, United States Magistrate Judge, and was ordered detained pending further proceedings in front of Judge Spero tomorrow morning at 9:30 am. The case is assigned to the Honorable William H. Alsup, U.S. District Judge.  The defendant was ordered to appear before Judge Alsup on March 3, 2015, at 2:00 p.m. for status conference.

Andrew M. Scoble is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Legal Tech Ponly Tu.  The prosecution is the result of more than seven years’ investigation by Homeland Security Investigations, the San Francisco Police Department, and the Daly City Police Department.

Updated February 24, 2015