Three MS-13 gang members were sentenced today to federal prison for violent crimes that they committed on behalf of the gang, including the 2006 murder of a rival gang member and 2008 shooting of a teenage boy, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting U.S. Attorney John A. Horn of the Northern District of Georgia.
Miguel Guevara, aka Blacky, 31, of Fort Walton Beach, Florida; Irvin Mejia Cruz, aka Triste, Lil Triste, 24, of Duluth, Georgia; and Walter Aldana, aka Goofy, 24, of Norcross, Georgia, were sentenced to 30 years in prison, nine years in prison, and 10 years in prison, respectively. U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story of the Northern District of Georgia imposed the sentences. The defendants each pleaded guilty in October 2013 to RICO conspiracy, and Guevara also pleaded guilty to using a firearm in relation to the commission of a crime of violence.
According to admissions made in connection with the defendants’ guilty pleas, the charges and other information presented in court, Mara Salvatrucha 13, or MS-13, is an international gang that originated in El Salvador and Honduras and spread to the United States. MS-13 members are organized into regional “cliques” within the larger gang. Each clique has a leader, often referred to as “the first word,” who conducts weekly meetings. At these meetings, members discuss their crimes and their plans to retaliate against rival gang members. The clique leaders collect dues from the gang members, which they use to buy guns and post bail for jailed gang members. Clique leaders often send money back to MS-13 leaders in their home countries, and report back to the same leaders about the clique’s activities on behalf of the gang.
MS-13 has operated in the greater Atlanta area since at least 2005. The gang staked out Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties as their home territory, where they committed murders, attempted murders and armed robberies, among other crimes.
According to admissions in connection with his guilty plea, Guevara was a member of MS-13, but in 2006, he decided to become less active in the gang and sought permission to “calm down” from the leader of his clique, Miguel Alvarado-Linares, aka Joker. Alvarado-Linares discussed this with other members at a meeting of the clique on Dec. 23, 2006, and the other gang members agreed that Guevara would have to shoot at a suspected rival gang member before he could become inactive. Guevara admitted that he and other gang members went to a nightclub in the early morning hours of Dec. 24, 2006 to hunt for rival gang members. Guevara admitted that he saw two rival gang members walk out of the night club and get into a car. Guevara and the other MS-13 members then followed the rival gang members. As the rival gang members exited the freeway, the MS-13 gang members pulled alongside, and Guevara fired multiple shots at the rival gang members. Guevara killed one of the gang members and wounded the other.
In connection with their guilty pleas, Cruz and Aldana admitted that they belonged to the same MS-13 clique. They further admitted that Mejia Cruz advised Aldana to shoot someone if he wanted to earn more respect within MS-13, and, on Aug. 21, 2008, Mejia Cruz gave Aldana a gun for the task. Aldana admitted that he left Mejia Cruz’s house with the gun, and encountered a group of teenagers, some of whom were playing basketball. Aldana challenged the teenagers, “Who do you claim,” asking to which gang they claimed allegiance. He then started firing into the crowd and struck a 14 year-old boy in the back. Aldana called out “Mara Salvatrucha” as he fled on foot. He later returned the firearm to Mejia Cruz.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, FBI, Gwinnett County Police Department and DeKalb County Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Joseph K. Wheatley of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul R. Jones of the Northern District of Georgia.