Tennessee Feds: Nine MS-13 Gang Members Indicted in Racketeering and Violent Crime Conspiracy
A federal grand jury in Nashville, Tennessee, has returned a 60-count indictment charging nine members of La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) with a racketeering conspiracy spanning more than seven years.
Those charged in the second superseding indictment are: Carlos Ochoa-Martinez, 31, aka “El Serio;” Jason Sandoval, 35, aka “Bin Laden;” Jorge Flores, 29, aka “Peluche;” Kevin Tidwell, 28, aka “Miklo;” all of Nashville; Jose Pineda-Caceres, 22, aka “Demente;” Franklin Hernandez, 22, aka “Happy;” Luis Colindres, 24, aka “Listo;” Gerson Serrano-Ramirez, 34, aka “Frijole;” and Juan Melendez, aka “Shaggy.”
According to court documents and statements made in court, MS-13 is a national and transnational gang composed largely of individuals of Salvadoran or Central American descent. The purpose of the MS-13 enterprise includes preserving and protecting the power, territory, reputation and profits of the enterprise through the use of intimidation and violence, including murder and promoting the enterprise through acts of murder, robbery, drug trafficking and other criminal activities. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13 operate throughout the United States, including in Nashville.
The indictment charges members of one such clique operating in Nashville, specifically the Thompson Place Locos Salvatrucha clique, with committing a wide range of offenses, including the murder of seven individuals, the attempted murder of an additional five individuals, drug distribution, robberies, kidnappings and assaults. More specifically, the indictment charges the following acts of violence occurring over an approximately 17-month period:
April 6, 2016
July 31, 2016
L.R. murdered, during the gang’s attempt to murder R.R.
Jan. 18, 2017
Attempted murder of R.V.
Feb. 18, 2017
Attempted murder of H.V., L.A., and H.S.
Feb. 25, 2017
Attempted murder of H.S.
May 21, 2017
May 27, 2017
J.F. murdered; and attempted murder of L.R.L.
June 1, 2017
Assault of deputized federal officer
June 17, 2017
Kidnapping and assault of C.R.
July 25, 2017
Kidnapping and assault of X.A. to prevent him/her from cooperating with law enforcement
Sept. 24, 2017
H.Z. and Y.H. murdered
Sept. 24, 2017
A.L. murdered; gang members then burned a car with A.L.’s body in the trunk
As alleged in the indictment, MS-13 gang members often target individuals for violence based on the gang’s belief that an individual is a rival gang member or a potential witness to crimes committed by the MS-13 members. MS-13 members are required to follow various rules, chief among them being that cooperation with law enforcement is strictly prohibited, and it is well understood within the gang that anyone who assists the authorities will be punished with death; that members are required to confront, fight and/or kill rival gang members when possible; and that members are required to retaliate quickly and viciously against anyone who disrespects or threatens the gang’s authority, power, reputation or control of a neighborhood. Participation in such violent acts by a member increases the respect accorded to that member, results in that member maintaining or increasing their position in the gang, and could result in a promotion to a leadership position.
The defendants are charged with RICO conspiracy, murder and other violent crimes in aid of racketeering, witness tampering, causing death through the use of a firearm, using a firearm during a crime of violence, possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, and violations of the Controlled Substances Act, among other crimes. The statutory penalties for the charged offenses range from a statutory maximum of 10 years to life imprisonment. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.