U.S. Attorney's Office
District of New Jersey
(973) 645-2888
December 15, 2014

Hudson County Gang Leader Pleads Guilty to Murder Conspiracy After Obtaining Approval from Gang’s National Leadership

NEWARK, NJ—A Hudson County, N.J., man today admitted to trying to kill a rival gang member, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Carlos Valdez, a/k/a “Catracho,” 27, was indicted in July 2014 with numerous other top-ranking members of the international criminal street gang, Mara Salvatrucha (also known as “MS” or “MS-13”), for racketeering crimes, including conspiracy to commit murder. Valdez, who admitted to being the leader of an MS-13 set, or “clique,” operating in Hudson County, known as “Hudson Locotes Salvatruchas,” pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark federal court to Count One of the indictment, engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, and Count Five, conspiring to possess firearms in furtherance of a crime of violence.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

In autumn 2013, Valdez was recruited by Joel Antonio Cortez, a/k/a “Pee Wee,” a high-ranking member of Mara Salvatrucha’s national leadership, to join the “national program,” a scheme to consolidate the gang’s cliques under a single, nationwide organization devoted to violence, extortion, and drug trafficking. At the time, Cortez was incarcerated in a California state prison and used a contraband cellular phone to remain in contact with Mara Salvatrucha members on the East Coast. Cortez served as a top deputy for Jose Juan Rodriguez-Juarez, a/k/a “Sacerdote,” the leader of Mara Salvatrucha in the United States and the primary organizer of the new “national program.”

In November 2013, Valdez and other gang leaders in northern New Jersey hatched a plot to murder two brothers in Hudson County, New Jersey. Before carrying out the plot, Valdez and others sought authorization from high-ranking members in the gang’s national and international leadership, including Cortez and incarcerated members of the gang in El Salvador. Law enforcement learned of the murder plot during the course of its investigation and arrested certain gang members, including Valdez, before it could be completed.

Both of the charges to which Valdez pleaded guilty carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for March 16, 2015.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford. The investigation involved multiple FBI Field Offices, with substantial assistance provided by the FBI Field Office in Los Angeles. Fishman also thanked the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Gaetano T. Gregory, and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Acting Prosecutor Grace Park, for their work on this case. He also acknowledged the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California for its assistance in the ongoing investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James M. Donnelly and Andrew J. Bruck of the U.S Attorney’s Office Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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