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Press Release

High-Ranking Member Of MS-13 Sentenced To More Than 9 Years In Prison For Racketeering And Narcotics Offenses

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
Prior to His Arrest, Jaime Santana, a/k/a “Smiley,” Was the Highest Ranking Non-Incarcerated Member of the “L.A. Program” of MS-13 in the U.S.

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that JAIME SANTANA, a/k/a “Smiley,” a high-ranking member of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vernon S. Broderick to 110 months in prison.  SANTANA previously pled guilty to participating in a racketeering conspiracy, and participating in a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine. 

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Jaime Santana, a leader of the L.A. Program of MS-13, trafficked in weapons and cocaine and helped plan a cross-border methamphetamine distribution network.  Santana was also party to an extortion in which he and others threatened to murder the victim.  Thanks to our partners at HSI and the NYPD, Santana was arrested, convicted, and has now been sentenced to prison for his crimes.”

According to the Indictment, other filings in this case, and statements during court proceedings:

SANTANA is a member of MS-13, a transnational racketeering enterprise that operates throughout North and Central America, including in El Salvador, Mexico, New York, California, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.  In order to enrich the enterprise, protect and expand its criminal operations, enforce discipline among its members, and retaliate against members of rival gangs, members and associates of MS-13 committed, conspired, attempted, and threatened to commit acts of violence, distributed and possessed with intent to distribute narcotics, including methamphetamine and cocaine, and obtained, possessed, and used firearms.

MS-13 is organized into chapters called “cliques.”  Groups of cliques, in turn, are aligned as “programs.”  Each program is governed by a group of senior gang leaders known as the “table.”  SANTANA is a high-ranking member of the table of the “L.A. Program” of MS-13.

In July and September 2019, SANTANA sold a 9mm handgun, a .40 caliber handgun, a .45 caliber handgun, boxes of ammunition, and cocaine to individuals working at the direction of law enforcement.

Furthermore, in the summer and fall of 2019, SANTANA was involved, with other high-ranking members of MS-13, in planning for the establishment of a methamphetamine distribution network that started in Mexico and operated throughout the United States, including North Carolina, New York, Virginia, and Tennessee.

In addition, in September 2019, SANTANA and other senior members of MS-13 conspired to extort another gang member, who was told that he either had to repay money or be “green lit” (i.e., killed) for introducing a “bad connection” who supplied poor quality narcotics to the gang.           

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In addition to the prison term, Judge Broderick sentenced SANTANA, 41, of Galatin, Tennessee, to five years of supervised release.

Ms. Strauss praised the investigative work of Homeland Security Investigations and the New York City Police Department.

This prosecution is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation.  OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.  Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at

This case is being handled by the Office’s Violent & Organized Crime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Longyear, Justin V. Rodriguez, and Jacob Warren are in charge of the prosecution.


James Margolin, Nicholas Biase
(212) 637-2600

Updated August 13, 2021

Drug Trafficking
Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 21-218