SAN FRANCISCO – Three members of La Mara Salvatrucha – also known as the “MS-13” gang – were sentenced to 27 years in prison for the June 21, 2010, murder of Alexander Temaj-Castanon and to racketeering conspiracy charges today, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Tatum King, Acting Special agent in Charge for U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), San Francisco.
According to court documents, Davie Jimmy Mejia-Sensente, a/k/a “Crazy” or “Loco,” 31, Carlos Mejia- Quintanilla, a/k/a “Sleepy” or “Dormido,” 25, and Luis Amilar-Zanas, a/k/a “Trucha,” 35, were all members of MS-13. MS-13 is a transnational street gang with local chapters, or “cliques,” throughout the world, including El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States. MS-13 members engage in crimes such as murder, narcotics trafficking, and obstruction of justice.
One of principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must seek out and kill rival gang members. In the San Francisco Bay Area, MS-13’s principal rival has been and remains the Norteños, gang members who have roots in Northern California and who claim allegiance to the Nuestra Familia prison gang.
According to court documents, Mejia-Sensente, Mejia-Quintanilla, and Amilar-Zanas were all MS-13 members since at least 2002, originally joining the gang in their native El Salvador. During the late evening of June 20, 2010, the three were together on a Muni 14 Mission bus heading from San Francisco to Daly City. Alexander Temaj-Castanon got on the bus and sat near Mejia-Sensente, Mejia-Quintanilla, and Amilar-Zanas, and the three thought that Temaj-Castanon looked like a Norteño gang member. As a result, they decided to kill him.
Amilar-Zanas left a backpack containing a loaded gun for Mejia-Sensente and Mejia-Quintanilla to use, and then exited the bus. When the bus stopped on Mission Street in Daly City, Mejia-Sensente and Mejia-Quintanilla exited along with the victim. Mejia-Sensente was carrying the backpack with the gun, and after waiting until no one else was around, Mejia-Quintanilla took the gun from the backpack and shot Temaj-Castanon at least once, knocking Temaj-Castanon to the street. Mejia-Sensente then took the gun from Mejia-Quintanilla and shot Temaj-Castanon again. Temaj-Castanon died from his gunshot wounds. He was not affiliated with any gang.
All three of the defendants pleaded guilty to conspiring to conduct the affairs of MS-13 through a pattern of racketeering, which included murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), as well as to using a firearm during and in relation to the racketeering conspiracy, causing the murder of Alexander Temaj-Castanon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(j) and 2. The defendants were each sentenced to a term of 27 years’ imprisonment. There is no parole for federal sentences.
“The brutal and senseless murder of Alexander Temaj-Castanon is an outrage that demonstrates the danger gangs pose to our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. “I commend the outstanding work of our federal and local law enforcement partners who collaborated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring these violent criminals to justice. We hope Alexander Temaj-Castanon’s family and loved ones are brought some measure of closure by the sentences handed down today.”
“We’re gratified by today’s sentences because they represent another important stride in our ongoing effort to combat gang-related crime in the Bay Area,” said Tatum King, Acting Special Agent in Charge for ICE, HSI San Francisco. “Working with the Daly City Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we’ve successfully brought to justice three dangerous gang members who ruthlessly murdered a member of our community. Rest assured, we will continue to work with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to pursue transnational criminal organizations like MS-13, who show no regard for the law or human life.”
In addition to the gang-related charges, Mejia-Sensente also pleaded guilty to being an illegal alien in possession of ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(5), while Amilar-Zanas also pled guilty to illegally re-entering the United States after having previously been deported, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a) and (b)(2).
The sentences were imposed by the Honorable Charles R. Breyer, United States District Court Judge, in San Francisco.
Andrew M. Scoble and Matthew L. McCarthy are the Assistant United States Attorneys who are prosecuting this case, with the assistance of Erica Doerr, Ponly Tu, Ana Guerra, Marina Ponomarchuk, and Daniel Charlier-Smith. This prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Daly City Police Department, working with Homeland Security Investigations.