A sealed four-count indictment charging seven members or associates of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) Street Gang with racketeering and the commission of three violent acts - three murders - in aid of racketeering has been unsealed following the arrest of the men charged. The indictments were announced by United States Attorney José Angel Moreno and FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen L. Morris.
The indictment, returned by a Houston grand jury on July 27, 2011, alleges Hector Ovidio Molina Fuentes, aka Hector Ovidio Madrid and Negro, 33; Jose Gabriel Garcia Calderon, aka Lunatico, 19; Ernesto Manuel Mejia, aka Sleepy, 18; Samuel DeJesus Argueta, aka Chucky, 21; Ronald Alexander Gomez, aka Topolliyo and Keeper, 19; Jaime Eduardo Lopez Torres, aka Pinguino, 29; and Carlos Contreras, aka Pupusa, 21, were members and associates of MS-13, a criminal organization in Houston that functioned as a unit engaged in murder, attempted murder, drug trafficking, robbery, extortion and conspiracy to further the objectives of the gang.
Those objectives included preserving, protecting, promoting and enhancing the power, territory and reputation of the gang - the enterprise - through the use of intimidation, violence, threats of violence, assaults and murder and keeping victims and community members in fear of the gang as well as providing financial support and information to MS-13 members including those incarcerated in the United States and elsewhere. The indictment was unsealed today.
Calderon, Gomez, Argueta and Mejia were arrested on June 28, 2011, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Smith on July 30, 2011, and have been ordered to remain in custody without bond pending trial. Torres appeared on Aug. 11, 2011, after his arrest on unrelated charges in Arkansas and will be detained pending trial. Contreras was arrested July 29, 2011. After a hearing before a U.S. Magistrate Judge, Contreras has also been ordered held without bond pending trial. Fuentes, who is currently in custody on unrelated charges in Panama, is pending extradition to the United States.
"Gang activities reach out from far beyond the neighborhoods in which they are ongoing and into the communities in which we live," said Moreno. "But the long arm of the law has now reached far beyond the borders of our district to bring these defendants to justice. These charges represent the continuing cooperative law enforcement efforts in this district to combat violent gang activity."
According to the indictment, the men allegedly committed violent crimes in furtherance of the enterprise for the purpose of gaining entry into the gang or maintaining or advancing their position within the gang. Among those crimes were the murders of Saul Garduno, 15, Jonathan Hernandez, 24, and Anayanci Roche, 17, on March 14, May 5, and June 1, 2011, respectively.
"Our investigation into this violent gang is not over. We will continue to pursue MS-13 and any other gang members who seek to poison our streets with drugs and violence, " said Morris. "The public is an important partner in this fight. We ask you to come forward with any information about this gang or other violent gangs in our communities. "
The MS-13 gang had its origins in the 1980s in the United States and is a national and international criminal organization whose members conduct gang activities in the United States and Central America. According to the indictment, the word "Mara" is the term used in El Salvador for gang, while the phrase "Salvatrucha" is a combination of the words "Salva" - an abbreviation for Salvadoran - and "trucha," which is a slang term for the warning "fear us," "look out" or "heads up." Male gang members are required to complete an initiation process, often referred to as "jumped in" where the new member is beaten by other members until the count of 13. Female gang members are initiated by either being "jumped in" or submitting to sexual activity with gang members. MS-13 gang members often display their membership through tattoos reading "MS" or "MS-13" in gothic lettering and/or by wearing the gang's colors - blue and white - or clothing bearing the number "13" or numbers when added together total 13. MS-13 members pay dues which are used for the benefit of and provided to MS-13 members who are imprisoned in the United States, El Salvador and Panama as well as to buy firearms to be used to conduct the enterprise's illegal activities.
The enterprise also has a hierarchy organized into "cliques," or smaller groups operating in a specific city or region which hold regular meetings to discuss gang rules, collect dues and discuss gang business including illegal activity. The leaders of individual MS-13 cliques are typically called "shot callers," "Jefe de Clica" (clique boss) or "Palabrero" (one who has the word). Above the shot caller are the MS-13 leaders, often referred to as "corredores de programa" (program leaders). Above them are the "palabreros de programa" (program shot callers) and above this group are the "principle shot callers." Finally, the "cabecillas nacionales" or national heads convey their orders to subordinates by the use of telephones even while incarcerated. According to the indictment, the defendants were members of a Houston area clique in which Fuentes and Calderon were shot callers and Mejia, Argueta, Gomez, Torres and Contreras were gang members.
These charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI-led Multi-Agency Gang Task Force, which includes the Harris County Sheriff's Office, Houston Police Department, Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In addition, this investigation was worked in close coordination with the Houston Police Department's Homicide Division and their newly established gang squad.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tim S. Braley and Mark Donnelly are prosecuting the case.
To report potential gang activity in the area, please visit stophoustongangs.org. The newly established website, created by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, was designed to inform and educate the public about gangs and also allows anyone to report gang crimes anonymously.