Baltimore, Maryland – Chief U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar sentenced Manuel Martinez-Aguilar, a/k/a “El Lunatic” and “Zomb”, age 20, of Annapolis, Maryland, today to 24 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise and for using, carrying, and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, in connection with his MS-13 gang activities.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Baltimore Office; Special Agent in Charge Rob Cekada of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Baltimore Field Division; Chief Timothy J. Altomare of the Anne Arundel Police Department; and State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess of the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Office.
MS-13 is a gang composed primarily of immigrants or descendants of immigrants from El Salvador, with members operating in the State of Maryland, including Anne Arundel County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and Frederick County, and throughout the United States. Branches or “cliques” of MS-13 often work together cooperatively as “Programs,” with the purpose of increasing the gang’s levels of organization, violence, extortion, and other criminal activity, and to assist one another in avoiding detection by law enforcement. In Maryland and the surrounding area, these cliques include Hempstead Locos Salvatruchas (“HLS”), Parkview Locos Salvatrucha (“PVLS”), Normandie Locos Salvatrucha (“NLS” or “Normandie”), Sailors Locos Salvatrucha Westside (“SLSW” or “Sailors”), Langley Park Salvatrucha (“LPS”), Weedoms Locos Salvatrucha (“Weedoms”), and Cabanas Locos Salvatruchas (“Cabanas”). A person within the participating cliques is selected as the Program leader.
To protect the gang and to enhance its reputation, MS-13 members and associates are expected to use any means necessary to force respect from those who show disrespect, including acts of intimidation and violence. MS-13’s creed is based on one of its mottos, “Mata, roba, viola, controla,” which translates to, “kill, steal, rape, control.” One of the principal rules of MS-13 is that its members must attack and kill rivals, known as “chavalas,” whenever possible.
According to Martinez-Aguilar’s plea agreement, prior to 2015, and continuing through 2017, Martinez-Aguilar was a member and associate of the Hempstead clique of MS-13, and participated in a racketeering conspiracy that included assaults, murder, attempted murder, robbery, and drug trafficking. For example, Martinez-Aguilar conspired to and attempted to murder two victims in Annapolis, for the purpose of gaining entrance to, maintaining, and increasing position in MS-13.
As detailed in his plea agreement on October 23, 2016, Martinez-Aguilar and other MS-13 members met in a park to discuss the plan to murder Victim 2, an unlicensed cab driver who was believed to be a member of a rival gang. At the meeting, each member of the conspiracy was assigned a task to complete the murder and dispose of the evidence. The group planned to use machetes, knives, and guns to kill the victim. All the members of the conspiracy, including Martinez-Aguilar, were aware that guns would be used in the murder. Martinez-Aguilar and another MS-13 member were tasked with disposing of Victim 2’s vehicle after the murder. The group planned to bury the victim’s body in the park.
According to the plea agreement, a member of the conspiracy called Victim 2 using another member’s cell phone to arrange for an unlicensed taxi ride. Victim 2 arrived with another passenger, Victim 3. The conspirator asked Victim 2 to drive to the area of 700 block of Annapolis Neck Road in Annapolis. When they arrived, another MS-13 member approached the vehicle and pointed a gun at the victims and the MS-13 member in the car also produced a gun and pointed it at the victims. Victim 3 attempted to run away and was shot in the leg, while another MS-13 member attacked the victim with a machete. Victim 2 also tried to run. Martinez-Aguilar and another MS-13 member took Victim 2’s vehicle and attempted unsuccessfully to run him over with the car. Two MS-13 members chased Victim 2 and repeatedly struck Victim 2 with a sharp instrument, causing stab wounds. The conspirators fled when they heard police sirens. Both victims were transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center with life threatening injuries. Both victims survived but have permanent injuries as a result of the attack.
On October 24, 2016, police detectives located Victim 2’s car, which smelled of gasoline. Officers recovered burned cigarettes from the car the contained DNA from Martinez-Aguilar.
Further, Martinez-Aguilar admitted that between January 2016 and February 2017, he and other members of MS-13 sold cocaine and marijuana to raise funds for the gang. The proceeds were used for the purchase of more narcotics, weapons, and to send to MS-13 members and associates in other states and in El Salvador, among other purposes.
Co-defendant David Diaz-Alvarado, age 20, pleaded guilty to murder in aid of racketeering related to a murder committed on March 11, 2016, in connection with his MS-13 gang activities. Charges remain pending against four other co-defendants, who all remain detained pending trial.