Two Hyattsville, Maryland, men were sentenced for conspiracy to participate in the racketeering enterprise activity of a violent gang known as La Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, including murder.
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 R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Baltimore; Chief Hank Stawinski of the Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department; Chief Douglas Holland of the Hyattsville Police Department; and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks made the announcement.
Eric Antonio Mejia-Ramos, aka Flaco, 22, was sentenced today to life in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. Luis Guzman-Ventura, aka Casper, 22, was sentenced yesterday to 30 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus of the District of Maryland imposed the sentences. Mejia-Ramos was convicted by a jury on Sept. 30, 2016, of one count of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering conspiracy and Guzman-Ventura pleaded guilty to the same charge on Sept. 13, 2016.
MS-13 is a national and transnational 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, Montgomery County and Frederick County, Maryland. MS-13 members are required to commit acts of violence to maintain membership and discipline within the gang. One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible.
According to Guzman-Ventura’s plea agreement and evidence presented at Mejia-Ramos’ trial, from at least 2009 through 2014, the defendants and other members and associates of MS-13 planned and engaged in 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. During that time, Mejia-Ramos was a member of the Parkview Locotes Salvatrucha clique and Guzman-Ventura was a member of the Weedons Clique of MS-13.
According to trial evidence presented against Mejia-Ramos, on the night of Aug. 28, 2012, Mejia-Ramos lured a woman he believed to be a rival gang member to a park in Beltsville, Maryland, then shot the woman to death.
In connection with his plea, Guzman-Ventura admitted that on Dec. 5, 2012, while he was the front-seat passenger in a vehicle being driven by another MS-13 member, Jose Rodriguez-Nunez, he shot at three individuals believed to be rival gang members, killing one and wounding a second victim. After the shooting, Rodriguez-Nunez and Guzman-Ventura fled the scene to avoid being identified. Rodriguez-Nunez, aka Killer, 27, of Hyattsville, previously pleaded guilty to being the driver in this drive-by shooting and is detained pending sentencing, scheduled for Jan. 9, 2017.
Fourteen of the 15 defendants charged in this investigation have been convicted for their roles in the racketeering conspiracy. The final defendant is a fugitive.