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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Two MS-13 Gang Members Convicted Of Murder Are Sentenced To Life In Prison

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose announced today that U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr. handed down life sentences to two MS-13 gang members convicted of murder.

In April 2016, a federal jury convicted Miguel Zelaya, 22, of Charlotte, of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity (RICO), murder in aid of racketeering, use or carry of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in the death of Jose Orlando Ibarra.  

Luis Ordonez-Vega, 37, of Concord, N.C. was convicted of RICO conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, use or carry of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence resulting in the death of Noel Navarro Hernandez.

A third MS-13 gang member, Jorge Garcia, 27, of Charlotte, was also sentenced today to 70 months in prison and two years of supervised release, after pleading guilty to a RICO conspiracy and attempted murder in aid of racketeering charges.

According to filed court documents, trial evidence and statements made in court:

From at least in or about 2009 to about May 2015, the three men along with 34 other co-defendants named in a federal indictment, were members of the MS-13 gang, a criminal organization with over 6,000 members in the United States and 30,000 members internationally.  MS-13 originated in Los Angeles, California, and has spread to states across the country, including in North Carolina.  The gang’s members are mostly immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador and other Central and Latin American countries.  In North Carolina, some of the active MS-13 members are divided into different groups, or “cliques,” which include the “Trece Locos Salvatrucha,” the “Hollywood Locos Salvatrucha,” the “Charlotte Locotes Salvatrucha,” the “Centrales Locos Salvatrucha,” and the “Coronados Little Cycos Salvatrucha,” among others.  The different cliques work together to carry out criminal acts, to protect the interests of the criminal enterprise, and to assist each other in avoiding law enforcement detection. 

MS-13 members adhere to a set of gang rules and pay dues which fund the gang’s criminal activities and support other gang members or their families in the U.S and abroad.  Gang members are also expected to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang and its members, and to punish through acts of violence and intimidation those who disrespect the gang.  Some MS-13 members signify their affiliation with the gang by wearing blue, black and white color clothing and certain “Mara Salvatrucha,” or “MS-13” tattoos.

Members of MS-13 in Charlotte participated in multiple meetings at various times to discuss gang-related matters and to plan the commission of future crimes for the benefit of the gang.  They were also responsible for numerous criminal acts including murder and attempted murder. 

 Zelaya, a/k/a “Most Wanted” and “Ne Ne”, is a member of the “Coronados Little Cycos Salvatrucha” clique.  On December 18, 2013, Zelaya shot and killed Jose Orlando Ibarra, an associate of a rival gang, “The Latin Kings.”  Zelaya admitted to law enforcement that he shot Jose Ibarra because Ibarra owed him money for a gun and because Ibarra and his brother, a Latin King member, had been looking for one of Zelaya’s “homies” with a shotgun. 

Ordonez-Vega, a/k/a “Big Boy,” is a self-admitted member of MS-13 from Nassau County, New York, and a member of the “Brentwood Locos Salvatrucha” clique.  Ordonez-Vega has “MS” tattooed across his stomach and “La Mara Salvatrucha” tattooed across his chest. On June 6, 2013, Ordonez-Vega shot and killed Noel Navarro Hernandez in a strip mall parking lot in Charlotte.  Ordonez-Vega and other MS-13 members targeted Navarro because they believed that Navarro was a rival gang member because of the way he talked, wore red, and his haircut.

Twenty-nine other MS-13 gang members were previously sentenced in connection with this case:

  • Raul Contreras was sentenced to 360 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
  • Oscar Trejo was sentenced to 300 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
  • Cesar Garcia-Perez was sentenced to 276 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
  • Daniel Navarro was sentenced to 240 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
  • Jose Danny Argueta was sentenced to 228 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Milton Chavarria was sentenced to 228 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
  • Alexis Villalta-Morales was sentenced to 204 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Christian Pena was sentenced to 180 months in prison.
  • Carlos Almonte was sentenced to 144 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Luis Funes-Rivera was sentenced to 144 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Albert Vela-Garcia was sentenced to 78 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Jose Moran-Celis was sentenced to 72 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Marlon Vasquez-Maldonado was sentenced to 72 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
  • Rene Lopez-Ventura was sentenced to 66 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Jose Manuel Linares was sentenced to 60 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Juan Bergamasco-Suarez was sentenced to 57 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Neris Gutierrez was sentenced to 51 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Jose Vasquez was sentenced to 46 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Luis Erazo was sentenced to 37 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Raul Guardado was sentenced to 36 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
  • Jonathan Noble was sentenced to 36 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Jaime Turcios was sentenced to 36 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
  • Rosendo Rivas was sentenced to 30 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Jorge Perez was sentenced to 27 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Marvin Fuentes-Canales was sentenced to 24 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Saul Gavidia was sentenced to 21 months in prison and three years of supervised release.
  • Victor Pineda was sentenced to 21 months in prison and two years of supervised release.
  • Angel Hernandez was sentenced to 21 months in prison.
  • Fec Rodriguez-Vareal was sentenced to 15 months in prison and one year of supervised release.

Two more defendants, Jorge Sosa and William Gavidia, were previously convicted at trial and are currently awaiting sentencing.  Sosa was convicted of RICO conspiracy, attempted murder in aid of racketeering and use or carry of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, that being attempted murder in aid of racketeering.  Gavidia was convicted of RICO conspiracy.     

Three others remain fugitives.  They are Miriam Barilles-Escamilla, Salvador Ruiz, and Luis Villalta.

In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney Rose thanked the Charlotte Division of the FBI and ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations for leading the joint investigation, along with North Carolina’s Alcohol Law Enforcement and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

This prosecution is part of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF).  OCDETF is a joint federal, state and local cooperative approach to combat drug trafficking and is the nation’s primary tool for disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, targeting national and regional level drug trafficking organizations and coordinating the necessary law enforcement entities and resources to disrupt or dismantle the targeted criminal organization and seize their assets.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth Greene and William Miller of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte are prosecuting the case.

Updated November 1, 2016