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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 1, 2016

New Jersey Leaders And Members Of Violent, International Street Gang Convicted Of Racketeering-Related Charges

Plainfield-based Gang Supported the Enterprise with Murder, Extortion, and Plots to Kill Witnesses

NEWARK, N.J. – Eight members of the New Jersey branch of the international street gang “La Mara Salvatrucha,” or “MS-13” – including the branch’s founding member – were convicted by a federal jury today of racketeering-related crimes, including multiple acts of violence, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced.

Santos Reyes-Villatoro, a/k/a “Mousey,” 43, of Bound Brook, New Jersey; Mario Oliva, a/k/a “Zorro,” 29, of Plainfield, New Jersey; Roberto Contreras, a/k/a “Demonio,” 27, of Bound Brook; Julian Moz-Aguilar, a/k/a “Humilde,” 28, of Plainfield; Hugo Palencia, a/k/a “Taliban,” 24, of Plainfield; Jose Garcia, a/k/a “Chucky” and “Diabolico,” 24, of Plainfield; Esau Ramirez, a/k/a “Panda,” 25, of Plainfield; and Cruz Flores, a/k/a “Bruja,” 30, of Bound Brook, were convicted following a 16-week trial before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark federal court. The jury deliberated for approximately four days before returning the verdicts. Sentencing is set for Sept. 7, 2016. A chart outlining the counts of which each defendant was found guilty and the maximum potential penalties associated with each of those counts is attached.

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 Contreras all served as “First Word,” or leader, of the PLS.

From 2007 through September 2013, MS-13 members from the PLS committed five murders in furtherance of MS-13’s objectives. On Feb. 9, 2009, Reyes-Villatoro, acting as the leader of the 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, handed 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, Roberto 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, Flores 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.  

Garcia also 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 the 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. After today’s verdicts, 13 of the 14 individuals charged in that indictment have been convicted. One defendant remains a fugitive.

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 Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark and by Kevin L. Rosenberg of the Organized Crime and Gangs Section of the Department of Justice.
 

Defendant

Found Guilty/Max Penalties

Reyes-Villatoro

Count 1: Racketeering Conspiracy- Life in Prison;

Count 2: Murder in Aid of Racketeering (Victim 5)- Mandatory life sentence

Count 3: Use of Firearm in Violent Federal Crime (Victim 5)- Life in prison; 10-year mandatory minimum

Count 4: Murder Resulting from Federal Firearm Crime (Victim 5)- Life in Prison

Oliva

Count 1: Racketeering Conspiracy- Life in Prison

Count 8: Murder in Aid of Racketeering (Victim 10)- Mandatory life sentence

Count 9: Use of Firearm in Violent Federal Crime (Victim 10)- Life in prison; 10-year mandatory minimum

Count 10: Murder Resulting from Federal Firearm Crime (Victim 10)- Life in Prison

Contreras

Count 1: Racketeering Conspiracy- 20 years in prison

Count 11: Accessory After the Fact to Murder in Aid of Racketeering (Victim 10)- 15 years

Moz-Aguilar

Count 1: Racketeering Conspiracy- Life in Prison

Count 2: Murder in Aid of Racketeering (Victim 5)- Mandatory life sentence

Count 3: Use of Firearm in Violent Federal Crime (Victim 5)- Life in prison; 10-year mandatory minimum

Count 4: Murder Resulting from Federal Firearm Crime (Victim 5)- Life in Prison

 

Palencia

Count 1: Racketeering Conspiracy- Life in Prison

Count 12: Murder in Aid of Racketeering (Victim 11)- Mandatory life sentence

Count 13: Use of Firearm in Violent Federal Crime (Victim 11)- Life in prison; 10-year mandatory minimum

Count 14: Murder Resulting from Federal Firearm Crime (Victim 11)- Life in Prison

 

Garcia

Count 1: Racketeering Conspiracy- 20 years

Count 15: Murder-for-Hire Conspiracy- 10 years

Count 16: Interstate Travel with Intent to Commit Murder-for-Hire- 10 years

Count 20: Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering- 10 years

Count 26: Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering (Victim 16, Victim 22, Victim 23)- 10 years

Ramirez

Count 1: Racketeering Conspiracy- 20 years

Count 26: Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering (Victim 16, Victim 22, Victim 23)- 10 years

Flores

Count 18: Conspiracy to Commit Murder in Aid of Racketeering (Victim 15)- 10 years

Count 19: Murder in Aid of Racketeering (Victim 15)- Mandatory life sentence

 

Defense counsel:

Reyes-Villatoro: Anthony Iacullo Esq. and David Glazer Esq.

Oliva: Henry Klingeman Esq. and Kenneth Kayser Esq.

Contreras: Marc Liebman Esq.

Moz-Aguilar: John Whipple Esq.

Palencia: Joseph Rubino Esq. and Kelley Sharkey Esq.

Garcia: Charles Alvarez Esq.

Ramirez: Michael Koribanics Esq..

Flores: David Ruhnke Esq. and Linwood Jones Esq.

16-155
Topic: 
Violent Crimes
Updated June 1, 2016