Participated in Assault, Kidnapping and Attempted Murder of a State’s Witness
A Maryland gang member was sentenced to 188 months in prison today for conspiring to participate in a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.
The sentence was announced by 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 Andre Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI); Chief Mark A. Magaw of the Prince George’s County, Maryland Police Department; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Department; Chief Alan Goldberg of the Takoma Park, Maryland, Police Department; and Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.
Wilmer Argueta, aka Chengo, 23, of Hyattsville, Maryland, pleaded guilty on April 20, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus of the District of Maryland to one count of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) conspiracy.
According to the stipulated facts agreed to in connection with Argueta’s guilty plea, MS-13 is an international criminal organization and one of the largest street gangs in the United States with branches or “cliques” operating throughout Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland. Both to maintain membership in the gang and to enforce internal discipline, members are required to engage in acts of intimidation and violence, including against members of rival gangs.
In connection with his plea, Argueta admitted that from 2009 until at least 2012, he was a member and leader of the Peajes Locos Salvatrucha clique of MS-13, and that he and members of the Peajes 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.
Argueta admitted that on Jan. 3, 2010, he and other MS-13 members attempted to kidnap and assault two individuals with various weapons because Argueta and his co-conspirators believed one of the individuals was associating with a rival gang. After the individuals fled in different directions, several MS-13 members caught one of the victims and sexually assaulted her as retribution for associating with a rival gang.
In addition, according to the plea agreement, on Jan. 13, 2011, Argueta attended a Peajes clique meeting during which another MS-13 member criticized members of the clique for not committing enough violent crimes and encouraging clique members to target rival gang members with acts of violence. After the meeting, Argueta and other MS-13 members strangled and stabbed an individual whom the clique members believed to be a member of a rival gang. Although the MS-13 members left the victim for dead, he survived.
Argueta also admitted that between March and November 2011, he and other members of the Peajes clique extorted a former MS-13 associate under the threat of a “greenlight” (an order to kill). Argueta admitted that he ordered other MS-13 associates to relay the death threats to the victim, and he contacted the victim himself on multiple occasions to arrange extortion payments.
According to admissions made in connection with his plea, between September and November 2011, Argueta conspired to kill an individual who had been assaulted by Argueta and other MS-13 members and who had agreed to testify as a witness against Argueta in state court. Specifically, Argueta admitted that, while incarcerated in the Prince George’s County Corrections Facility, he ordered the “greenlight” by contacting a co-conspirator who then relayed the instruction to other MS-13 members. On Nov. 15, 2011, three MS-13 members drove to the victim/witness’ home, and one of the co-conspirators shot at the victim from a moving vehicle, striking the victim in the chest. The victim survived.
To date, five of the 14 defendants charged in this case have pleaded guilty to participating in the racketeering conspiracy.
The case is being 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. The Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office, HSI Baltimore’s Operation Community Shield Task Force and the Maryland Department of Corrections Intelligence Unit also provided assistance.
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. Attorneys William D. Moomau and Lindsay Eyler Kaplan of the District of Maryland.