A Maryland MS-13 gang member pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as the La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and acknowledged his involvement in attempted murder and extortion in furtherance of MS-13.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland, Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Chief Mark A. Magaw of the Prince George’s County Police Department, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks, Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department, Chief Alan Goldberg of the Takoma Park Police Department, and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy made the announcement.
Roni Arriola-Palma, 24, of Greenbelt, Maryland, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus. Sentencing is scheduled for March 9, 2015.
According to the statement of facts filed with Arriola-Palma’s plea agreement, MS-13 is a national and international gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants from El Salvador. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13, one of the largest street gangs in the United States, operate throughout Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, Maryland. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence both to maintain membership and discipline within the gang and against rival gangs.
The statement of facts states that from 2009 until at least 2012, Arriola-Palma was a member and leader of the Peajes Locos Salvatrucha clique of MS-13. Arriola Palma and other MS-13 members in the Peajes clique and other MS-13 cliques committed crimes to further the interests of the gang, including murder, assault, robbery, extortion by threat of violence, obstruction of justice, witness tampering and witness retaliation.
Arriola-Palma admitted that from January 2010 through at least May 2011, he attended MS-13 leadership meetings in Maryland as the representative and leader of the Peajes clique.
According to the plea agreement, on Jan. 13, 2011, Arriola-Palma attended a Peajes clique meeting with other MS-13 members near the Greenbelt Metro Station. Another MS-13 member spoke at the meeting, criticizing members of the clique for not committing enough violent crimes on behalf of MS-13 and encouraging clique members to find rival gang members and commit acts of violence against them.
Arriola-Palma admitted that after the meeting ended, he drove other MS-13 members in a minivan. Near the Fort Totten Metro Station, they saw a person who they believed was an associate of a rival gang. MS-13 members attacked the victim and dragged him back into the minivan, where they continued to assault him. After later stopping and departing the minivan, Arriola-Palma and other MS-13 members forcefully stripped the victim of all clothing and stabbed him. After the assault, two MS-13 members dragged the victim into the woods and one of the gang members strangled the victim with his belt. When they returned from the woods, they informed the other members that the victim was dead. Arriola-Palma then drove the group of MS-13 members away from the scene. The victim, however, survived the attack.
From March to November 2011, members of the Peajes clique threatened to place a “greenlight,” or order to kill, on a former MS-13 associate unless he paid them a weekly or bi-weekly “rent” or “tax,” which gang members collected from the victim. Arriola-Palma admitted that he accepted payments that he knew were proceeds from the extortion scheme from two other MS-13 members.
This case was investigated by HSI Baltimore, the Prince George’s County and Montgomery County Police Departments, the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Takoma Park Police Department and the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office, HSI Baltimore’s Operation Community Shield Task Force and the Maryland Department of Corrections Intelligence Unit. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Kevin L. Rosenberg of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney William D. Moomau of the District of Maryland.