Seven New Jersey Members Of Violent, International Street Gang Sentenced To Prison For Racketeering-Related Charges
NEWARK, N.J. – Seven members of the New Jersey branch of the international street gang “La Mara Salvatrucha,” (MS-13) have been 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.
Franklin Mejia, a/k/a “Frankbo,” 25, and his brother, Kelvin Mejia, a/k/a “Machete,” 24, both of Plainfield, were each sentenced today to 150 months in prison. Ruben Portillo-Fuentes, a/k/a “Sombra,” 24, of Plainfield, of Plainfield, was sentenced today to 121 months in prison, and Julio Adalberto Orellana-Carranza, a/k/a “Player,” 28, also of Plainfield, was sentenced today to 72 months in prison. Jose Romero-Aguirre, a/k/a “Conejo,” 29, of North Plainfield, New Jersey, was sentenced today to 66 months in prison.
Franklin Mejia, Kelvin Mejia, Portillo-Fuentes, and Orellana-Carranza each previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler to racketeering conspiracy. Romero-Aguirre previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.
Roberto Contreras, a/k/a “Demonio,” 28, of Bound Brook, New Jersey, was sentenced on Dec. 1, 2016, to 180 months in prison. Jose Garcia, a/k/a “Chucky,” 24, of Plainfield, was sentenced on Dec. 5, 2016, to 240 months in prison.
Contreras and Garcia were two of eight defendants convicted following a 16-week trial before Judge Chesler. Contreras was convicted of racketeering conspiracy and accessory after the fact to murder in aid of racketeering. Garcia was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, murder-for-hire conspiracy, travel in interstate commerce with intent to commit murder, and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.
Judge Chesler imposed all the sentences in Newark federal court.
According to the documents filed in this case, statements made in court, 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. From 2007 through 2011, MS-13 members from PLS committed five murders in furtherance of MS-13’s objectives, as well as numerous other violent crimes, including extortion, robbery and several weapons offenses.
In late-2010 into early-2011, Garcia arranged for MS-13 members from Maryland to come up to Plainfield to kill a woman in exchange for money. Garcia agreed to split the $40,000 murder-for-hire proceeds with the Maryland gang members. On Jan. 10, 2011, four Maryland MS-13 members drove to Plainfield to carry out the hit. They were arrested shortly before they were to meet Garcia.
On Jan. 10, 2011, 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 7, 2011, Portillo-Fuentes approached an individual sitting outside a residence in Plainfield. Seeking to intimidate the individual and establish MS-13’s control over the area, Portillo-Fuentes fired a handgun at the individual, striking him the chest. The victim survived.
On May 8, 2011, Garcia and another MS-13 member assaulted a suspected member of the 18 Street gang at a park in Plainfield. During the assault, Garcia placed a gun to the victim's head and threatened to kill the victim.
On June 11, 2011, Orellana-Carranza sought to complete a “mission” to kill a rival gang member that had been assigned by PLS's leadership. Garcia assisted Orellana-Carranza by arranging for Kelvin Mejia to supply Orellana-Carranza with a handgun. After retrieving the weapon, Orellana-Carranza went out in search of an 18th Street gang member to kill, but was unsuccessful.
On June 15, 2011, Portillo-Fuentes attacked a member of the 18th Street gang with a machete on a busy street in Plainfield. After spotting the rival, Portillo-Fuentes jumped out of a vehicle and swung a machete at the individual’s head and neck areas. The victim sustained a large, deep gash.
Later that evening, Kelvin Mejia, Franklin Mejia, and a PLS associate robbed two individuals in the same park where Garcia had placed a gun to another victim’s head in May 2011. Franklin Mejia was armed with a handgun; the other two individuals carried handguns. The PLS members ordered the victims to the ground and robbed them of cell phones and ecstasy pills. During the robbery, Franklin Mejia fired a shot near one of the victims’ head. The bullet missed the victim’s head but grazed the individual’s hand. The victims were then ordered to leave the park.
On June 24, 2011, Garcia, Kelvin Mejia, Franklin Mejia, and others plotted to rob an elderly woman who ran an underground liquor store at her residence in Plainfield. That evening, a PLS member went to the woman’s home to rob her. He fired a single shot through the woman’s window when she refused to let him enter the residence, and then fled. Later, in July 2011, Garcia and Kelvin Mejia again plotted to rob the woman to raise bail money for PLS members who had been arrested.
On June 4, 2011, Franklin Mejia and another gang member attacked a PLS associate with a machete on the train tracks in Plainfield because they believed the victim had been associating with a rival gang. The victim survived. On July 2, 2011, Franklin Mejia and Kelvin Mejia sought to obtain a firearm so that Franklin Mejia could kill an older PLS member who was protecting the machete attack victim. Law enforcement officers thwarted the plot.
Kelvin Mejia and Franklin Mejia also distributed cocaine together. Through wiretaps and lawfully intercepted recordings, law enforcement officers intercepted conversations in which Kelvin Mejia and Franklin Mejia arranged drug deals. On July 2, 2011, law enforcement officers searched the Mejias’ residence in Plainfield and seized a small quantity of cocaine.
Law enforcement officers arrested numerous members of PLS in early July 2011. From the Union County Jail, some of the jailed PLS members, including Garcia, Orellana-Carranza and the Mejia brothers, plotted to kill at least three individuals they believed had cooperated with the authorities. To carry out the plot, the jailed PLS members enlisted Romero-Aguirre, who was still free at the time. Romero-Aguirre subsequently instructed PLS members outside the jail to kill the suspected cooperators. Law enforcement officers discovered the plan and intervened before anyone was harmed.
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. Flores is awaiting 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 its 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.
Reyes-Villatoro: Anthony Iacullo Esq. and David Glazer Esq.
Oliva: Henry Klingeman Esq. and Kenneth Kayser Esq.
Moz-Aguilar: John Whipple Esq.
Palencia: Joseph Rubino Esq. and Kelley Sharkey Esq.
Ramirez: Michael Koribanics Esq.