MS-13 Members Receive Life Sentences
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 19, 2013|
ATLANTA—Ernesto Escobar, a/k/a Pink Panther, a/k/a Flaco; Miguel Alvarado-Linares, a/k/a Joker; and Dimas Alfaro-Granados, a/k/a Toro, have been sentenced to life in prison for their roles in committing murders and attempted murders in Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties.
“The defendants sentenced today were the local leaders of the notorious MS-13 gang,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “These defendants upheld MS‑13’s reputation for spreading fear throughout the community by committing brazen and indiscriminate acts of violence, including killing rival gang members and suspected cooperators. They have rightfully earned their life sentences.”
“Homeland Security Investigations, in partnership with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, has made a priority of targeting the most violent members of transnational gangs who are involved in murder and mayhem and significantly escalate violence in our neighborhoods, and these three individuals fit that bill,” said Brock Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. “Our communities are now safer because these heinous criminals will spend the rest of their lives behind bars.”
Ricky Maxwell, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated, “An investigation that helped secure life sentences for such violent offenders that have proven time and again that they have no respect for the lives of others is a very successful investigation. Such international gangs as MS-13 will continue to be the focus of a joint law enforcement effort at all levels with the goal to arrest those involved and to dismantle the organization as a whole.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: MS-13 is an international gang that has operated in the Atlanta area since at least 2005. During the course of this investigation, which ended in 2010, more than 75 MS-13 members have been arrested, charged, and/or deported. Members were organized into “cliques,” or groups, but they operated under the larger umbrella of MS‑13. Each clique had a leader, often referred to as “the first word,” who conducted weekly meetings. At these meetings, members discussed their crimes against rival gang members and their plans to retaliate against rivals. The clique leaders collected dues from the gang members, which they used to buy guns and post bail for jailed gang members. Clique leaders often sent money back to MS-13 leaders in their home countries of El Salvador and Honduras, and clique leaders often reported back to MS-13 leaders in their home countries about MS-13 activities in the Atlanta area.
The gang members staked out Gwinnett and DeKalb Counties as their home territory, where they committed murders, attempted murders, and armed robberies. The evidence at trial showed that the defendants committed the following crimes:
- Alvarado-Linares and Alfaro-Granados, along with another gang member, killed Lal Ko in October 2006. Ko was a fellow MS-13 member, but Alvarado-Linares, one of the gang leaders, thought that Ko was cooperating with police and ordered his murder.
- In December 2006, when another MS-13 gang member wanted to quit the gang, Alvarado-Linares and Alfaro-Granados ordered him to kill a rival gang member as a condition of leaving MS-13. On Christmas Eve 2006, that gang member, following orders, shot at a car on Highway 316 that he believed contained rival gang members. The driver, Celso Villalobos, was shot, and his passenger, Angel Gonzalez, was murdered. Angel Gonzalez was 20 years old.
- On New Year’s Eve 2006, Alvarado-Linares was at an apartment complex where he exchanged gang hand signs and insults with two members of the rival gang SUR-13. Alvarado-Linares pulled out a gun and shot the men.
- A few weeks after the New Year’s Eve incident, Alfaro-Granados got into a fight with a suspected rival gang member at a nightclub. Alvarado-Linares, Alfaro-Granados, and Escobar later returned to the club, where Escobar shot a man walking through the parking lot.
- In August 2007, Escobar got into a scuffle with two teenagers at a Shell gas station in Gwinnett County. Escobar reported the incident to the clique leader, who gave Escobar a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun to retaliate. Escobar went back to the Shell station and shot one of the teenagers as he was painting lines in the parking lot. The victim, David Hernandez, was only 16 years old.
- In October 2007, Alvarado-Linares was in Gwinnett County and came across a suspected 18th Street member. Alvarado fired a shotgun and killed Pablo Archila-Baires. Archila-Baires was only 15 years old.
Ernesto Escobar, a/k/a Pink Panther, a/k/a Flaco, 30, of Norcross, Georgia, was sentenced today to life in prison. Miguel Alvarado-Linares, a/k/a Joker, 25, of Norcross, Georgia, was sentenced to life in prison on October 15, 2013; and Dimas Alfaro-Granados, a/k/a Toro, 30, of Duluth, Georgia, was sentenced to life in prison on October 29, 2013. Escobar, Alvarado-Linares, and Alfaro-Granados were found guilty by a jury on July 15, 2013. Parole has been abolished in the federal system.
This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service, Gwinnett County Police Department, DeKalb County Police Department, Chamblee Police Department, and Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant United States Attorneys Paul R. Jones and Kim S. Dammers and U.S. Department of Justice, Organized Crime and Gang Section, Trial Attorney Joseph K. Wheatley prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.Pressemails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.