In Boston, a federal jury convicted four members of the violent MS-13 Eastside Loco Salvatrucha (ESLS) narcoterrorist organization. Herzzon Sandoval, a/k/a “Casper,” 36; Edwin Guzman, a/k/a “Playa,” 32; and Erick Argueta Larios, a/k/a “Lobo,” 33, a Salvadoran national illegally residing in the U.S., were found guilty on Monday of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly referred to as RICO conspiracy.

Cesar Martinez, a/k/a “Cheche,” 37, a Salvadoran national illegally residing in the U.S., was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV scheduled Herzzon Sandoval’s sentencing for May 29, 2018; Guzman’s sentencing for May 30, 2018; Cesar Martinez’s sentencing for May 31, 2018; and Argueta Larios’s sentencing for June 1, 2018.   

According to a Department of Justice press release, MS-13 was identified as a violent transnational criminal organization whose branches, or “cliques,” operate throughout the United States, including in Massachusetts. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence, specifically against rival gang members, to gain membership in and be promoted within the gang. Sandoval and Guzman were the leaders, also known as the “first word,” and “second word,” of the ESLS clique in Massachusetts.

On Sept. 20, 2015, Joel Martinez, a/k/a “Animal,” murdered a 15-year-old boy in East Boston. On Jan. 8, 2016, Joel Martinez was promoted by the gang to “homeboy” status for the 2015 murder with a 13-second beating by other MS-13 members at an ESLS meeting which Sandoval, Guzman, Cesar Martinez and Argueta Larios also attended. Joel Martinez has pleaded guilty to RICO conspiracy and accepted responsibility for the murder and is awaiting sentencing. 

The charge of RICO conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. The charge of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine provides for a minimum mandatory sentence of five years and up to 40 years in prison, four years of supervised release, and a fine of $5 million. Martinez and Argueta Larios will be subject to deportation upon the completion of their sentence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Law enforcement in Massachusetts aver that the leadership of MS-13 was hobbled when the FBI and state and local police raided East Boston and surrounding communities in 2016, arresting dozens of men on conspiracy charges. They arrested 61 persons, who were charged with a wide range of crimes, including murder and racketeering. Twenty-seven of those have pleaded guilty, and another man, 22-year-old Rafael Leoner Aguirre, was convicted in November 2017. The indictment accused 19 members of MS-13 of six murders, including the deaths of three teenage boys and a young woman who was killed in front of her children by a stray bullet. The FBI used a confidential witness recruited from El Salvador, who infiltrated MS-13 and recorded its meetings and activities. The recordings allowed law enforcement to examine the violent group's organizational structure, recruitment, and brutality. Its aim is to kill any rivals, especially illegal immigrants. 

President Donald Trump has specifically targetted MS-13 for attention during his administration. During his State of the Union address in January, he introduced members of Congress present in the Capitol to two families whose children had been murdered by illegal aliens. In one case, a girl was murdered by members of MS-13.

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Spero News writer 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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