Defendant Admitted his Participation in MS-13 and Witness Retaliation Murder Conspiracy
A North Plainfield, New Jersey, man pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit murder in furtherance of a racketeering enterprise known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey and Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel of the FBI’s Newark, New Jersey, Division.
Jose Romero-Aguirre, aka Conejo, 29, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler of the District of New Jersey, who scheduled sentencing for March 16, 2016. Romero-Aguirre remains detained pending sentencing.
According to court documents, MS-13 is a national and international gang with branches or “cliques” operating throughout the United States, including in Plainfield, New Jersey. In connection with his plea, Romero-Aguirre admitted that he was a member of the Plainfield Locos Salvatrucha (PLS) Clique of MS-13 for a period of time continuing through at least August 2011. Romero-Aguirre admitted that in or around July 2011, MS-13 members began investigating the arrest of several members of the PLS Clique to identify those who had provided police with information on the arrestees, contrary to PLS rules. Romero-Aguirre admitted that he participated in phone calls with other incarcerated MS-13 members discussing the need to find and kill the witnesses and that he agreed to relay the murder instructions from the incarcerated members to the other MS-13 members.
Twelve other members and associates of the PLS Clique are scheduled for trial in front of Judge Chesler on Feb. 9, 2016. The charges include several counts of murder, attempted murder, robbery, extortion, witness retaliation and sexual assault.
FBI’s Newark Division, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations’ Newark Field Office, the Plainfield Police Department and the Union County, New Jersey, Prosecutor’s Office investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Donnelly and Jamari Buxton of the District of New Jersey and Trial Attorney Kevin L. Rosenberg of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section are prosecuting this case.