Twelve Others Have Pleaded Guilty in the Case
Three leaders of MS-13 in Washington, D.C., were sentenced today to federal prison for conspiring to participate in racketeering activity and other charges stemming from their roles in murders, extortion and other violent crimes.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen Jr. of the District of Columbia, Special Agent in Charge Clark E. Settles of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations’ (ICE-HSI) Washington D.C. Field Office and Chief Cathy L. Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) made the announcement.
Noe Machado-Erazo aka Gallo, 32, of Wheaton, Maryland, was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years in prison. Jose Martinez-Amaya, aka Crimen, 28, of Brentwood, Maryland, was sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years in prison. Yester Ayala, aka Freeway or Daddy Yankee, 24, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District of Columbia imposed the sentences.
“MS-13 is a brutally violent gang that has plagued communities in many parts of this country, including Washington, D.C.,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “The lengthy sentences imposed on the MS-13 leaders convicted in this case reflect the vicious and calculated nature of the murders they committed and the gang they led.”
“This prosecution shows our commitment to purging MS-13’s bloody brand of violence from the District of Columbia,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen. “These killers brought lawless vengeance to our community and left a 14-year-old boy dead. These gang members will now have decades in prison to reflect on their heinous crimes.”
“HSI continuously targets transnational gangs that wreak havoc on our American communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Settles. “Today’s sentences are testament to the strong investigative work of our HSI special agents and the Metropolitan Police Department.”
“The action by the courts today further exemplifies our message to persons engaging in criminal gang activity: you will find no place for your activities here in Washington, D.C.,” said Chief Lanier. “We will work as long as necessary to ensure this city, and the capital area, are free from the violence and harm gang activity brings into our communities. The agents, officers, and attorneys have done a tremendous job bringing this case to a successful end.”
In August 2013, following a month-long trial, Machado-Erazo and Martinez-Amaya were found guilty of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity, murder in aid of racketeering and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. Ayala was found guilty of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity, two counts of murder in aid of racketeering, first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree murder.
MS-13 is a large gang that operates in the United States and Central America. Members engage in racketeering activity including murder, narcotics distribution, extortion, robberies, obstruction of justice and other crimes.
According to evidence presented at trial, a number of small MS-13 groups, or cliques, operate in the Washington, D.C., area. The evidence showed that the cliques have frequent contact with MS-13 leadership in El Salvador, and that they act in accordance with the MS-13’s international strictures, including the requirement that members remain unfailingly loyal to the gang.
The evidence presented at trial showed that both Machado-Erazo and Martinez-Amaya were members of the Normandie clique, and that Martinez-Amaya held a leadership position in the group; and that Ayala was a leader of the Sailors, another clique. The evidence also showed that Machado-Erazo coordinated the activities of local MS-13 cliques.
At trial, the government presented evidence that Ayala helped carry out orders to murder Louis Alberto Membreno-Zelaya, a fellow MS-13 member who had removed his gang tattoos. Membreno-Zelaya’s body was found on Nov. 6, 2008, in Northwest Washington, D.C. He had been stabbed at least 20 times.
According to evidence presented at trial, Ayala also participated in the Dec. 12, 2008, murder of 14-year-old Giovanni Sanchez near the Columbia Heights Metro station in Washington D.C. Giovanni was stabbed 11 times.
The evidence at trial also demonstrated that Machado-Erazo and Martinez-Amaya took part in the killing of Felipe Enriquez, an MS-13 member whose body was found on March 31, 2010, in Montgomery County, Maryland. The government presented evidence that Enriquez was lured to a remote park where he was fatally shot by Martinez-Amaya. Evidence presented during the trial showed that Machado-Erazo provided the gun used in the shooting.
The three defendants sentenced today are among numerous individuals charged in a 2010 indictment alleging criminal acts committed between 2008 and 2010 in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and other states, as well as in El Salvador. Twelve defendants have pleaded guilty to charges in the case.
The case was investigated by ICE-HSI and the MPD. Assistance was provided by the Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Riverdale Park, Maryland, Police Departments; the Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Department; the State’s Attorney’s Office of Montgomery County; the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Maryland and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia. Assistance also was provided by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
This case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Laura Gwinn of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nihar Mohanty of the District of Columbia.