Task Force Investigation Results in Federal and State Charges of MS-13 Gang Members and Associates for Their Roles in a Drug Trafficking Network and Extortion Scheme
|U.S. Attorney’s Office December 10, 2013|
LOS ANGELES, CA—An investigation that led to charges against 20 members and associates of the MS-13 street gang for violations, including distribution of methamphetamine and extortion, culminated this morning with multiple arrests, announced Bill Lewis, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, on behalf of multiple agencies who conducted the investigation and who assisted during this morning’s operation.
The federal defendants were charged in indictments returned by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles and unsealed today. The majority of the federal defendants are charged with distribution of methamphetamine in nine separate indictments.
During this investigation, several individuals were charged by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office with extortion based on information obtained in this case.
Three of the federal defendants charged were already in custody prior to today’s operation; nine federal defendants were arrested during this morning’s operation; and one is considered a fugitive. One defendant was arrested in Kansas City, Missouri.
Those charged in the federal indictments are listed below.
- Thomas Rodriguez, aka “Big Boy,” 35, Los Angeles, arrested
- Jose Rodriguez, aka “Dreamer,” 34, Los Angeles, arrested
- Jorge Orellana, aka “Spike,” 34, Los Angeles, arrested
- Anival Orellana, aka “Pantera,” 35, Los Angeles, arrested
- Juan Garcia, aka “Duende,” 32, Los Angeles, arrested
- Rogelio Lemus, aka “Sky,” 42, Los Angeles, arrested
- Elvis Molina, aka “Lil Comando,” 33, Lynwood, fugitive
- Jose Avelar, aka “Chema,” 38, Los Angeles, arrested
- Lazaro Nunez, aka “Fino,” 28, Los Angeles, arrested
- Fabel Roque, aka “Spooky,” 25, Kansas City, arrested
- Sandra Hernandez Chinchila, 40, Valencia, arrested
- Mario Morales, aka “Plucky,” already in custody on unrelated charges
- Luis Vega, aka “Lil One,” 29, already in custody on unrelated charges
- Edwin Castillo, aka “Directo,” 31, already in custody on unrelated charges
The state defendants are listed below.
- Santos Ventura, aka “Payaso,” 30, Los Angeles
- Jonathan Chavez, aka “Lento,” 25, Los Angeles
- Thomas Linares, aka “Lil Lonely,” 30, Los Angeles
- Oscar Chavez, 28, Los Angeles
- Ivan Castro, aka Inocente,” 21, already in custody
A defendant not charged in the indictments being announced today but linked to this case was also arrested. Candi Pascual was taken into custody this morning based on a state bench warrant.
The investigation focused on known members and associates of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) street gang and its associated cliques, considered to be the largest and among the most violent gangs in the Los Angeles area.
Origins of MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha-13, can be traced to the Los Angeles area formed by immigrants who fled the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s. The number 13 relates to the 13th letter of the alphabet, or "M," a known to reference "La Eme," or the Mexican Mafia, a California-based prison gang that exercises control over MS-13 members and other street gangs whose members pay taxes in exchange for protection. MS-13 operates in areas of Los Angeles including but not limited to Rampart, Wilshire, Olympic, and Hollywood. The gang is estimated to have several thousand members in multiple U.S. cities, as well as throughout Central America and Mexico, and is known for its brutality.
During this morning’s operation, seven minor children were removed by the Department of Children and Family Services from defendants’ residences.
The federal defendants arrested today will have an appearance in United States District Court this afternoon in Los Angeles or in the federal district in which they were arrested. If convicted of the charges, defendants face statutory maximum sentences ranging from 10 years to life in prison.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Violent Gang Task Force, with participation from agents and officers with the FBI; Los Angeles Police Department; U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Throughout this investigation and during today’s operation, the task force received assistance from multiple law enforcement partners, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Child and Family Services. FBI agents in Missouri assisted with the arrest of one subject.
The federal defendants will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California. The District Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles will prosecute the defendants charged with state violations.
An indictment or criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.
- FBI Press Relations: 310-996-3343
- United States Attorney’s Office: Thom Mrozek: 213-894-6947
- Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office: 213-974-3525