Baltimore, Maryland – Six federal criminal complaints charging six defendants with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by violence or threats of violence including extortion were unsealed in the U.S. District Court in Maryland on Wednesday. The affidavit in support of the criminal complaints was partially unsealed. The defendants are:
Brayan Alexander Torres a/k/a “Spooky”;
Hernan Edgardo Yanes Rivera a/k/a “Shrek”, a/k/a “Recio”, a/k/a “Garra”;
Agustino Eugenio Rivas Rodriguez, a/k/a “Cipitio”, a/k/a “Chuchin”, a/k/a “Angel”, a/k/a “Terrible”;
Brian Samir Zelaya Meja a/k/a “Flaco”, a/k/a “Chispa”, a/k/a “Directo”;
Miguel Angel Ramires, a/k/a “Majin Buu”, a/k/a “El Gordo”;
Jorge Isaac Argueta Chica a/k/a “Timido”, a/k/a “Enamo”.
Torres, Rivas Rodriguez, Ramires, and Argueta Chica were arrested in Prince George’s County, Maryland on Tuesday. Zelaya Mejia was arrested in Houston, Texas on Tuesday. Yanes Rivera is already in federal custody after arrest on a pending Indictment charging him and others with Racketeering Conspiracy in Case No. PX-21-00047.
As alleged by the criminal complaint affidavit, Torres, Yanes Rivera, Rivas Rodriguez, Zelaya Mejia, Ramires, Argueta Chica and other co-conspirators are members of the Weedams Locos Salvatrucha (“WLS”), a clique of MS-13. Members of the same clique, including Yanes Rivera and unnamed co-conspirators, were also the subject of the Indictment charging Conspiracy to Participate in a Racketeering Enterprises filed in March of this year.
The criminal complaints were announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge Clark E. Settles of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Acting Special Agent in Charge Rachel Byrd of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Acting Field Office Director Francisco Madrigal of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement=s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations; Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department; and Sheriff Melvin C. High of the Prince George’s County Sheriff Department.
MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador and other central American countries. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Frederick County, Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County, Maryland.
As stated in the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint, members of MS-13 are expected to protect the name, reputation, and status of the gang from rival gang members and other persons. To protect the gang and to enhance its reputation, MS-13 members are expected to use any means necessary to force respect from those who showed disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence. MS-13 also frequently forces individuals to make extortion payments (that MS-13 refers to as “rent”) in order to operate unlicensed businesses in MS-13 gang-controlled territory. Extortion funds may then be used for gang purposes, including obtaining weapons and providing support for MS-13 gang members, some of whom are imprisoned in the United States, both inside and outside of Maryland, and in El Salvador.
Torres, Yanes Rivera and other WLS members threatened and collected rents from brothels and beer sellers. Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement observed and recorded members of the clique collecting extortion payments.
If convicted, each conspirator faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment for their participation in the conspiracy. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. At yesterday’s initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day ordered that Ramires and Argueta Chica be detained pending trial. Torres and Rivas Rodriguez each have been ordered detained pending detention hearings scheduled for July 2, 2021.
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; Prince George’s County Police Department; the Prince George’s County Sheriff Department; and the Montgomery County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner also thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph R. Baldwin and Thomas P. Windom, who are prosecuting the case.
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United States v. Dennis Jali, et al.
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