NEWARK, N.J. – Six members of the international street gang “Mara Salvatrucha” (also known as MS-13) were each sentenced to over five years in prison for various racketeering crimes including extortion, drug distribution, and conspiracy to commit murder, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced today.
Amilcar Romero, a/k/a “Chichi,” 47, of Los Angeles, and German Lisandro Benites-Moreno, “Raro,” 23, of Houston, were each sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge Stanley R. Chesler to 60 months in prison. Marvin Garcia-Cruz, a/k/a “Buffalo,” 33, of West New York, New Jersey, was sentenced today by Judge Chesler to 108 months in prison. Romero previously pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy. Benites-Moreno previously pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to ship firearms while being an illegal alien. Garcia-Cruz previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering and one count of conspiring to possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence.
On Oct. 17, 2016, Hector Carranza-Solis, a/k/a “Blackie,” 32, of West New York, Luis Lopez-Guzman, a/k/a “Nino,” 26, of Union City, New Jersey, and Rudy Gutierrez, a/k/a “Chiqui,” 24, of Union City, were each sentenced by Judge Chesler to 60 months in prison. Carranza-Solis and Lopez-Guzman each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering. Gutierrez pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Romero and Joel Antonio Cortez, 42, a/k/a “Pee Wee,” of Los Angeles, served as the top deputies to Jose Juan Rodriguez-Juarez, 34, the alleged leader of MS-13’s “national program” which was an effort to bring all of local sets operating in the United States under a single, cohesive leadership structure.
By autumn 2013, Rodriguez-Juarez had assigned Romero to serve as the primary point-of-contact between the leadership of Mara Salvatrucha in the United States and El Salvador, while Cortez assumed responsibility for recruiting Mara Salvatrucha cliques on the east coast of the United States to join the national program. Both are also alleged to have ordered acts of violence, including Cortez’s authorization of the November 2013 murder plot in Hudson County and Romero’s order to east coast-based gang members to collect money on behalf of the gang by force and violence.
Romero and Cortez also collaborated with MS-13 gang leaders in New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and elsewhere to establish a distribution chain for cheap Mexican cartel drugs, including heroin and crystal methamphetamine. Part of the profit from that drug distribution chain would then be funneled back to the gang’s leadership in California to further promote the gang’s criminal activity.
Benites-Moreno, a Texas-based enforcer, admitted discussing the use of extortion and threats of violence to collect “rent” from other gang members. He also admitted that from Jan. 5, 2014 through July 18, 2014, he conspired with others to ship firearms from Texas to the east coast of the United States, including New Jersey.
Lopez-Guzman, Carranza-Solis, and Rudy Gutierrez were three members of the “Hudson Locotes Salvatruchas” MS-13 clique based in Hudson County. Garcia-Cruz was the leader of “Pinos Locos Salvatrucha,” another MS-13 clique based in Hudson County. All four admitted to their roles in a conspiracy to murder an MS-13 member who had violated the gang’s rules and the member’s brother, who was alleged to belong to a rival gang. They admitted that they participated in telephone calls and other discussions with the leadership of the gang in the United States and El Salvador – including Cortes – to seek permission to kill the rival gang members. Law enforcement learned of the murder plot during the course of the investigation and arrested the defendants before it could be completed.
Romero’s sentence will be served consecutively to a 44-year prison sentence imposed by California state court in 1997 for attempted murder.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation. The investigation also involved substantial assistance from multiple FBI field offices, including the Los Angeles, California, office. U.S. Attorney Fishman also thanked the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Esther Suarez, and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Grace H. Park, for their work on this case. He also acknowledged the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California for its 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.