Federal grand jury indicts 17 suspected MS-13 members in San Francisco

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SAN FRANSICO, Calif. – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents arrested six suspected MS-13 gang members at a number of locations in San Francisco, Daly City, Mountain View, Menlo Park, and South San Francisco on March 12.”MS-13 gang members prey upon the communities they live in, committing the most heinous violent acts against their victims. The streets of San Francisco and the surrounding communities are safer when criminal gang members are arrested and held to account for their crimes,” said HSI San Francisco Special Agent in Charge Tatum King. “I’m proud of our agents’ exhaustive investigative work, together with the San Francisco Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, in bringing these subjects to justice. We also appreciate the law enforcement assistance with yesterday’s successful criminal arrests provided by the South San Francisco Police Department, the Mountain View Police Department, the San Mateo County Gang Intelligence Unit and the U.S. Marshals Service.”

During the arrests, HSI special agents recovered two handguns with ammunition. They also recovered a machete, which is known as a weapon of choice for MS-13 gang members.

The investigation led to 17 Bay Area residents being indicted by a federal grand jury for a broad range of racketeering crimes including RICO conspiracy, attempted murder, and assault. The superseding indictment handed down Feb. 18 and unsealed today catalogues a litany of crimes allegedly perpetrated in and around the Mission District of San Francisco, according to U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson.

“San Francisco continues to suffer from gang violence and gang claims on our public spaces,” said Anderson. “I am grateful to the men and women of Homeland Security Investigations and the San Francisco Police Department for their professionalism and teamwork as we oppose gang activity with skillful law enforcement and vigorous prosecutions. San Francisco is safer when we all work together.”

According to the indictment, the defendants are members of the MS-13 transnational criminal organization. MS-13 has over 10,000 members regularly conducting gang activities in at least 20 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in other nations, including Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. In the United States, MS-13 is one of the largest street gangs. It has been active in this country since the 1980s, when it originated in Los Angeles, California. Since then, MS-13 has spread to other cities in California, including San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Richmond, and Daly City. MS-13 has also spread across the country to other states, including Virginia, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, North Carolina and Texas. The superseding indictment describes how the 20th Street clique of MS-13 relies on crime to operate, including to avoid detection by law enforcement, to initiate new recruits, to enhance the reputation of the gang and individual gang members, to maintain control of drug distribution channels, and to intimidate people who might testify against or otherwise defy the gang.

In this case, the superseding indictment alleges 14 of the defendants conspired to engage in racketeering for the purpose of preserving the power, territory, reputation, and profits of the local MS-13 clique, known as MS-13 20th Street. The indictment describes how MS-13 20th Street members bear tattoos, wear certain colors, and display gang signs to demonstrate allegiance to the clique. Also described in the superseding indictment is how the gang seeks to maintain control of drug “turf” by relying on robbery, extortion, and other violent crimes, including stabbings and shootings. To see a surveillance video of these MS-13 gang members committing one of their violent acts against restaurant workers (described in Paragraph 26 of the indictment), go to: https://youtu.be/waUtxpqZEGM

Listed in the superseding indictment are dates on which particular defendants allegedly committed crimes to further the purposes of the gang. For example, the indictment alleges that on Sept. 16, 2016, defendants Alexis Cruz Zepeda, a.k.a. Zorro, and Kevin Reyes Melendez, a.k.a. Neutron, fired shots at a suspected gang rival. Cruz Zepeda and Reyes Melendez then fled the scene in a vehicle allegedly driven by Ronaldy Dominguez, a.k.a. “Smokey,” who, after a high-speed chase, evaded police by driving the wrong way down the Vermont Street off-ramp of Highway 101. The victim suffered five gunshot entry and exit wounds but survived. Similarly, the superseding indictment alleges that on Nov. 26, 2017, when MS-13 gang members attempted to extort cash and drugs from street dealers, defendant Elmer Rodriguez, a.k.a. Gordo, shot a victim in the chest at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun.

In all, the superseding indictment charges 10 crimes of violence allegedly perpetrated by the defendants. The charges pending against each defendant are as follows:

DefendantAgeChargesMaximum Statutory Penalty
Rogelio Belloso Aleman
a.k.a. “Smiley”
26Racketeering Conspiracy20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Edwin Alvarado Amaya
a.k.a. “Muerte”
22Racketeering ConspiracyLife in prison, $250,000 fine
Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering10 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Fernando Romero Bonilla
a.k.a. “Black”
22Racketeering Conspiracy20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Kenneth Campos
a.k.a. “Nesio”
30Racketeering Conspiracy20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering (two counts)20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Evert Galdamez Cisneros
a.k.a. “Talentoso”
22Racketeering Conspiracy20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Luis Velis Diaz
a.k.a. “Popa”
21Racketeering Conspiracy20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Ronaldy Dominguez
a.k.a. “Smokey”
24Racketeering ConspiracyLife in prison, $250,000 fine
Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering10 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering (two counts)20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Oscar Espinal
a.k.a. “Chuy”
29Racketeering ConspiracyLife in prison, $250,000 fine
Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering10 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Wilfredo Iraheta Landaverde
a.k.a. “Wally”
20Racketeering Conspiracy20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Kevin Reyes Melendez
a.k.a. “Neutron”
26Racketeering ConspiracyLife in prison, $250,000 fine
Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering10 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Discharge of a Firearm During and in Furtherance of a Crime of ViolenceLife in prison (Mandatory minimum of 5 years (7 years if brandished, 10 years if discharged)), $250,000 fine
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Missael Mendoza19Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering (two counts)20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Christian Quintanilla19Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering (two counts)20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Elmer Rodriguez
a.k.a. “Gordo”
30Racketeering ConspiracyLife in prison, $250,000 fine
Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering10 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Discharge of a Firearm During and in Furtherance of a Crime of ViolenceLife in prison
(Mandatory minimum of 5 years (7 years if brandished, 10 years if discharged), $250,000 fine
Marvin Osegueda Saravia
a.k.a. “Chiquis”
19Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering (two counts)20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Kevin Ramirez Valencia
a.k.a. “Delincuente”
22Racketeering Conspiracy20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Alexis Cruz Zepeda
a.k.a. “Zorro”
26Racketeering ConspiracyLife in prison, $250,000 fine
Attempted Murder in Aid of Racketeering10 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Discharge of a Firearm During and in Furtherance of a Crime of ViolenceLife in prison
(Mandatory minimum of 5 years (7 years if brandished, 10 years if discharged)), $250,000 fine
Kevin Guatemala Zepeda
a.k.a. “Mision”
23Racketeering Conspiracy20 years in prison, $250,000 fine
Fine of $250,000
Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Aid of Racketeering20 years in prison, $250,000 fine

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

In fiscal year 2019, HSI agents made nearly 4,000 arrests of transnational gang members; of those, more than 300 were tied to MS-13.

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