After a three-year investigation, federal authorities announced this week that 21 members and associates of MS-13 gang were arrested on racketeering charges.
Those arrested by members of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Task Force on Violent Gangs are among 44 defendants who face federal charges.
This includes the former head of the entire gang in Los Angeles and 12 senior leaders of the gang, who led a majority of the gang’s cliques in the Los Angeles region, according to officials.
A racketeering indictment charges three MS-13 members for murders they committed in connection with the gang’s activities.
These murders were solved as a result of the LAMTFVG investigation and its partnership with LAPD Olympic Division Homicide detectives.
Carlos Alfredo Cardoza Lopez, also known as “Little Boy,” 23, faces a murder charge for allegedly fatally shooting an innocent bystander who was confronted on August 15, 2015, inside the gang-controlled Little San Salvador Nightclub and Restaurant on North Western Avenue.
A friend of the murder victim was also stabbed during the attack.
Two other MS-13 members – Samuel Alexander Paredes Rivas, also known as “Blacky,” 39, and Joffri Molina, also known as “Espia,,” 24 – are also charged with murder.
Rivas is accused of murdering a man on August 30, 2015 at a strip mall in Pacoima. Molina is accused of murdering a man on September 27, 2015 on street in North Hollywood.
Lopez, Rivas and Molina are eligible for the death penalty if found guilty of the murder offenses. Prosecutors will decide whether to seek the death penalty at a later date.
“This gang is responsible for murders – both of rival gangsters and innocent bystanders – as well as drug dealing and extortion in many communities in the Los Angeles area,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown. “With thousands of members here in the Southland, the gang’s power is widespread – power which it maintains with severe acts of violence. “
“This case has targeted the leadership and most violent actors of the MS-13 street gang in Los Angeles, as well as MS-13’s links to the Mexican Mafia,” said Deirdre Fike, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
At the center of today’s takedown is a 41-count racketeering indictment that charges 34 members and associates of MS-13.
The indictment, which alleges violations of the federal Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations or RICO, outlines the gang’s organizational structure, its affiliation with the Mexican Mafia prison gang, and its strict set of rules and punishment.
The 127-page indictment describes how MS-13 uses violence and intimidation in an effort to maintain its power and control narcotics trafficking.
The lead defendant in the RICO indictment is Jose Balmore Romero, also known as “Porky,” 43, who in 2013 and 2014 was the overall shot-caller for MS-13 Los Angeles.
The indictment alleges that, as the leader of the gang, Balmore oversaw MS-13’s drug trafficking activities, coordinated the collection of extortionate “taxes” and “rent,” some of which was then distributed to Mexican Mafia members who oversaw MS-13.
Balmore also allegedly conducted and attended gang meetings, where he disseminated orders, including authorizing the “jumping in” of new members and the assault of members who were in bad standing.
Balmore has been in local custody since February 2015, when the task force arrested him for ordering a gang-related murder.
In addition to narcotics trafficking and violent crimes, members of MS-13 also allegedly engaged in a wide range of criminal conduct that includes the extortion of street-level drug dealers and innocent business owners who were threatened with death if they did not make payments to the gang.
The gang also operates illegal after-hours clubs where it generates profits from gambling and illegal narcotics and alcohol sales.
In addition to the 34-defendant RICO indictment, prosecutors have filed a drug-trafficking indictment against five other gang members who were associated with the Mexican Mafia. These defendants are charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, as well as various narcotics and firearms offenses.
Two other MS-13 members have also been charged separately with narcotics and firearms offenses.
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