An MS-13 member known by the sobriquet “Animal” was sentenced to 40 years in prison following a multiagency probe, which included U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Joel “Animal” Martinez was sentenced for racketeering conspiracy involving the murder of a 15-year-old boy in East Boston, Massachusetts. Martinez is an illegal immigrant to the U.S.

The 23-year-old Martinez is a citizen of El Salvador will be subject to deportation upon completion of his sentence. In December 2017, Martinez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct racketeering activity, and was prosecuted under the RICO conspiracy statute. The case was prosecuted by the Office of United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.

Martinez admitted that on September. 20, 2015, he murdered a 15-year-old boy in East Boston. During recorded conversations between Martinez and a witness, Martinez acknowledged that he belonged to MS-13 and  that he stabbed the victim to death. Martinez said, “I stabbed the culero [Spanish for wimp] three times,” and stated, “He stared at me and he asked me if I was going to, if I was going to stab him. I told him, ‘Yes, the Mara (Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13) rules you.’”

After the murder, Martinez was “jumped in” and made a “homeboy:” a full member of MS-13’s Eastside Loco Salvatrucha (ESLS) clique during a ceremony that was surreptitiously recorded by law enforcement agents. According to the Department of Justice, when a prospective member is “jumped in,” members of the MS-13 clique beat the new member with their hands and feet while one of the leaders of the clique counts aloud slowly to thirteen.

President Donald Trump held a public roundtable conference on MS-13 on New York’s Long Island on Wednesday. In attendance were federal and local officials, as well as the families to two victims of MS-13. Trump defended earlier references he had made to MS-13 gang members as "animals" by recounting  the many beatings, hackings, bludgeonings and other gruesome crimes attributed to MS-13. "I called them animals the other day and I was met with rebuke," Trump said in reference to criticism he received from Democrats. "They said, 'They're people.' They're not people, these are animals and we have to be very, very tough," AP reported

MS-13’s motto is "mata, viola, controla" (kill, rape, control). Also La Mara Salvatrucha, MS-13 is one of the largest criminal organizations in the US with more than 6,000 members and is found in most of the country. Outside of the US, MS-13 also has 30,000 members in Spain, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. 

Surveillance video revealed Joe Martinez was carrying a knife

“Joel “Animal” Martinez was properly brought to justice with this sentence of 40 years in prison,” said Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. “HSI’s focus on public safety in concert with our federal, state, and local partners will hopefully allow the community of East Boston to rest a little easier today knowing Martinez is now off the streets.” 

In addition to HSI Boston, other federal and state law enforcement involved in the probe included the FBI’s Boston Field Division, which led the case; the Massachusetts State Police; the Massachusetts Department of Corrections; the offices of Essex County Sheriff, Suffolk County Sheriff, Suffolk County District Attorney, Middlesex County District Attorney , Essex County District Attorney, as well as the Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Revere and Somerville, Massachusetts Police Departments. 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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