January 11th, 2007 05:45 EST
Thirteen Alleged Members of Ms-13 Gang Indicted on Racketeering Conspiracy Charges
WASHINGTON – Thirteen alleged members of the street gang called La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Tennessee on charges that they conspired to participate in a violent RICO enterprise responsible for killings and other violent crimes in Nashville, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Craig S. Morford for the Middle District of Tennessee announced today. The one-count racketeering indictment names the following 13 individuals, all of whom are currently in federal or state custody:
OSCAR SERRANO, a/k/a “Diablin”
ESCOLASTICO SERRANO, a/k/a “Chito”
OMAR HIRBIN GOMEZ, a/k/a “Lil Homie”
DAVID ALEXANDER GONZALEZ, a/k/a “Psycho”
ERNESTO ISAI MENDEZ-TOVAR, a/k/a “Joker,” a/k/a “Choey”
FRANCISCO DAGO MENDEZ, a/k/a “Silent” WALTER HERNANDEZ, a/k/a “Spanky”
HENRY GARBALLO-VASQUEZ, a/k/a “Cuervo”
ELISEO IGLESIAS, a/k/a “Smokey”
RONALD FUENTES, a/k/a “Spia”
ERICKA CORTEZ, a/k/a “Shorty”
GEOVANNI PENA, a/k/a “Rata,” and
JOSE ALFARO, a/k/a “Liche.”
“This indictment strikes at the heart of the MS-13 organization in Nashville, and continues our efforts to put members of gangs all across the nation on notice that they will be held responsible for the violence and mayhem they cause,” said Assistant Attorney General Fisher. “We will utilize the same tools we used to put Mafia leaders behind prison bars to confront the threat posed by violent criminal enterprises like the MS-13.”
“The facts alleged in this indictment reveal that MS-13 is a well-organized and extremely violent criminal enterprise that required an aggressive, cooperative response from local and federal authorities,” said U.S. Attorney Morford. “The indictment reflects the commitment of the Department of Justice and my office to continue to work with all law enforcement partners to ensure that those who engage in violent street gang activities in Middle Tennessee go to jail and do so on the most serious charges possible.”
U.S. Attorney Morford praised the cooperative partnership and outstanding efforts of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department’s Gang Suppression Unit, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Department of Homeland Security, the Davidson County District Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Tennessee, and the Department of Justice’s newly formed National Gang Squad.
The indictment alleges that the defendants were members or associates of the MS-13 street gang, a violent international criminal organization composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador. The purpose of this enterprise was to preserve and protect the power, territory and profits of the MS-13 enterprise through violent assault, murder, threats of violence, and intimidation.
The indictment further alleges that MS-13 originated in Los Angeles and quickly spread across the country, including to Middle Tennessee. It currently includes approximately 10,000 members in at least 10 states, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador, making it one of the largest street gangs in the United States.
MS-13 gang members regularly engage in violent criminal activity, including murders, assaults, and witness intimidation in order to maintain membership and discipline within MS-13 and rivalries against other gangs, according to the indictment. The violent nature of the enterprise and its members is reflected by one of their mottos: “Mata, Viola, Controla” (“Kill, Rape, Control”).
The indictment further alleges that MS-13 was organized in “cliques,” including the Thompson Place Locos Salvatruchos clique (TPLS), which operated in Nashville. The TPLS and other cliques allegedly worked together cooperatively to commit acts of violence and their members operated under the umbrella rules of MS-13.
According to the indictment, MS-13 members met on a regular basis to report on acts of violence committed by their members with the goal of inciting and encouraging even more violence. Leaders of MS-13 cliques from across the United States allegedly met to discuss gang rules, gang business, problem resolution, and issues involving members of different cliques, and to promote overall unity between MS-13 gang members. Members had to pay dues which were used to support MS-13 gang members imprisoned in various places within the United States, including Middle Tennessee, as well as those in El Salvador.
The indictment further alleges that Nashville-based MS-13 members and associates killed three people, attempted to kill at least seven others, and plotted to shoot or kill several more during 2006 in Nashville.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of life in prison on the RICO conspiracy charge.
An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jimmie Lynn Ramsaur of the Middle District of Tennessee and Department of Justice Trial Attorneys David Jaffe and John Han from the Criminal Division’s Gang Squad. Assistance was provided by agents and prosecutors from the National Gang Targeting, Enforcement and Coordination Center (GangTECC). GangTECC is led by the Criminal Division, and is comprised of representatives from the ATF, Bureau of Prisons, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and ICE, among others. The center coordinates overlapping investigations, ensures that tactical and strategic intelligence is shared between law enforcement agencies, and serves as a central coordinating center for multi-jurisdictional gang investigations involving federal law enforcement agencies.
TDD (202) 514-1888