Four New Jersey Members Of Violent, International Street Gang Sentenced To Life In Prison For Racketeering-Related Charges
Another Member of Plainfield-based Gang Sentenced to Over 14 Years in Prison
NEWARK, N.J. – Five members of the New Jersey branch of the international street gang “La Mara Salvatrucha,” or “MS-13”– including the branch’s founding member – were sentenced to prison for their roles in a violent criminal enterprise that included murder, extortion, and plots to kill witnesses, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced today.
Santos Reyes-Villatoro, a/k/a “Mousey,” 43, of Bound Brook, New Jersey, Julian Moz-Aguilar, a/k/a “Humilde,” 29, of Plainfield, New Jersey, and Hugo Palencia, a/k/a “Taliban,” 24, of Plainfield, were each sentenced today to life plus 10 years in prison. Mario Oliva, a/k/a “Zorro,” 30, and Esau Ramirez, a/k/a “Panda,” 25, both of Plainfield, were sentenced Nov. 27, 2016 to life plus 10 years in prison and 169 months in prison, respectively.
All five defendents were previously convicted following a 16-week trial before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler, who imposed the sentences this week in Newark federal court. Reyes-Villatoro, Oliva, Moz-Aguilar, and Palencia were each convicted of racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, use of a firearm in a violent federal crime, and murder resulting from a federal firearm crime. Ramirez was convicted of racketeering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.
According to the documents filed in this case and the evidence presented at trial:
MS-13 is a national and transnational gang with branches or “cliques” operating throughout the United States, including in Plainfield. All of the defendants were members of the “Plainfield Locos Salvatruchas” (PLS) clique of MS-13 that was founded by Reyes-Villatoro and operated in Union, Somerset, and Middlesex Counties. Reyes-Villatoro, Oliva and Roberto Contreras, a/k/a “Demonio,” 28, of Bound Brook, all served as “First Word,” or leader, of PLS.
From 2007 through September 2013, MS-13 members from PLS committed five murders in furtherance of MS-13’s objectives. On Feb. 9, 2009, Reyes-Villatoro, acting as the leader of PLS, drove Moz-Aguilar and other MS-13 members through the streets of Plainfield searching for rival gang members, eventually stopping at the Plainfield train station. There, Moz-Aguilar used a firearm previously provided by Reyes-Villatoro to murder a victim who was believed to be a member of the Latin Kings, a rival gang.
On Feb. 27, 2010, Oliva drove a female member of MS-13 to an empty parking lot in Piscataway, New Jersey, and murdered her because she was suspected of working with law enforcement. Oliva then fled New Jersey with the assistance of Contreras and hid from law enforcement with the MS-13 Pinos clique in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
On Nov. 11, 2010, Palencia drove another MS-13 member to the area around Barack Obama Academy in Plainfield, where they encountered students challenging MS-13. Palencia pulled over, provided a firearm to another MS-13 member and instructed him to shoot at one of the individuals. The MS-13 member shot into the crowd, killing a bystander.
On Jan. 10, 2011, Moz-Aguilar, Contreras and other MS-13 members were in a car when they spotted a suspected 18th Street gang member in front of a restaurant. Contreras stopped the vehicle and an MS-13 member exited, approached the suspected rival gang member and shot him in the head.
On May 8, 2011, Cruz Flores, a/k/a “Bruja,” 30, of Bound Brook, murdered a victim who was caught socializing with 18th Street gang members. Flores and another MS-13 member cut his throat, beat him with a bat and stabbed him in the back 17 times. An MS-13 member involved in this murder fled New Jersey and was driven to Maryland soon after law enforcement began searching for him.
Jose Garcia, a/k/a “Chucky” and “Diabolico,” 24, of Plainfield, recruited and hired MS-13 members from the Maryland-based Pinos clique to come to New Jersey and murder a woman in exchange for $40,000. The Pinos clique members were arrested by authorities as they pulled into Plainfield.
After several MS-13 members were arrested in July 2011, Ramirez and Garcia used phones from inside the Union County, New Jersey, jail to order the murder of three witnesses believed to be cooperating with police and responsible for their arrests.
According to evidence presented at trial, members of PLS also were responsible for an attempted murder of suspected Latin King members near a car wash in Plainfield; the attempted murder of suspected Latin King members in January 2009; a machete attack in May 2011 and another in June 2011 on the train tracks passing through Plainfield; an attempted murder shooting in Plainfield in May 2011; and several other violent crimes, including extortion, robbery and several weapons offenses.
The defendants were originally charged in a 26-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in September 2013. As of today, 13 of the 14 individuals charged in that indictment have been convicted. One defendant remains a fugitive. Contreras, Garcia, and Flores await sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Fishman and Assistant Attorney General Caldwell credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark; Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), under Newark Field Office Director John Tsoukaris; and Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola, with the investigation. They also thanked the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Grace H. Park, for long, close collaboration on the case.
They also thanked the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Michael H. Robertson, and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey, for their roles. They also acknowledged the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Virginia and the District of Maryland, as well as the Plainfield Police Department, Union County Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office, Elizabeth Police Department, North Plainfield Police Department, Union County Department of Corrections, Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department and the U.S. Marshal’s Service for their assistance.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James M. Donnelly and J. Jamari Buxton of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark and by Kevin L. Rosenberg, of the Organized Crime and Gangs Section of the Department of Justice.