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Press Release

MS-13 defendant pleads guilty to murder, admits responsibility as shooter

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Ohio
Defendant also admitted to threatening a witness/victim of the case at the federal courthouse

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A defendant in the MS-13 racketeering case pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court today and accepted responsibility for his involvement as a shooter in one homicide. His plea agreement includes a recommended sentence of 30 years in prison.

Jose Mendez-Peraza, 37, of Columbus, pleaded guilty today to one count of participating in a racketeering conspiracy and one count of murder through the use of a firearm during a crime of violence.

Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Todd A. Wickerham, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Cincinnati Division, Rebecca Adducci, Detroit Field Office Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations, Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin and Interim Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan announced the plea entered into today before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr.

Mendez-Peraza, also known as “Shadow,” is one of 23 individuals charged in a second superseding indictment in February 2018 who are alleged to be members and associates of MS-13 in Columbus.

The defendants are charged in a racketeering conspiracy, which includes five murders as well as attempted murder, extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking, assault, obstruction of justice, witness intimidation, weapons offenses and immigration-related violations.

The second superseding indictment alleges that the defendants committed a host of overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy, including: 1) the December 2006 murder of Jose Mendez, a confidential informant, in Perry County; 2) the November 2008 murder of Ramon Ramos on Lockbourne Road in Columbus; 3) the mid-2015 murder of Carlos Serrano-Ramos, a suspected rival gang member, near Innis Road in Columbus; 4) the November 2015 murder of Wilson Villeda near Innis Road in Columbus; and 5) the December 2016 murder of Salvador Martinez-Diaz, a suspected rival gang member, on Melroy Avenue in Columbus.

As part of his guilty plea, Mendez-Peraza accepted responsibility for his role as a shooter in the murder of Salvador Martinez-Diaz.  MS-13 members and associates began targeting Martinez-Diaz, a suspected 18th Street gang member, for murder as early as 2015.

On Dec. 3, 2016, co-conspirators waited in the parking lot of the Resolute Athletic Complex in Columbus where the victim was playing soccer. Others, including Mendez-Peraza, wore dark ski masks and waited for Martinez-Diaz near his apartment building at Melroy Avenue and Kelburn Road in Columbus.

When the victim arrived near his home, Mendez-Peraza and another MS-13 member opened fire on Martinez-Diaz with pistols, shooting him multiple times and killing him.

As part of his plea, Mendez-Peraza also admitted to threatening a witness/victim in this case while at the Joseph P. Kinneary United States Courthouse in Columbus. Mendez-Peraza told the witness/victim that MS-13 members would kill the individual and his/her family if the individual cooperated with law enforcement.

U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI, ICE, Columbus Division of Police and Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, and the assistance of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), as well as Assistant United States Attorneys Brian J. Martinez and Jessica H. Kim, who are prosecuting the case.

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Updated October 3, 2019

Violent Crime