Four members of the violent, foreign MS-13 gang were convicted on federal racketeering charges, some of which involved murder.
Miguel Zelaya, 20-years-old, Luis Ordonez-Vega, 36-years-old, Jorge Sosa, 24-years-old and William Gavidia, 23-years-old, were all convicted on a count of conspiracy to commit racketeering, according to the Charlotte Observer:
Zelaya, who also goes by “Most Wanted” and “Ne Ne” is a member of MS-13’s “Coronados Little Cycos Salvatrucha” clique. On Dec. 18, 2013, he shot and killed Jose Orlando Ibarra, an associate of The Latin Kings, a rival gang, the release said.
Ordonez-Vega, also known as “Big Boy,” is a member of the Brentwood Locos Salvatrucha” clique, according to the news release. On June 6, 2013, Ordonez-Vega shot and killed Noel Navarro Hernandez in a strip mall parking lot in Charlotte, believing the victim was a member of a rival gang.
Sosa, who goes by “Koki” and “Loco” is a member of the “Charlotte Locotes Salvatrucha” clique. Prosecutors say he’s been involved in multiple gang-related crimes. In Feb. 2008, he flashed MS-13 gang signs at a rival gang member’s mother and pointed a gun at her while they were stopped in traffic. In June, 2013, he was involved in a gang-related shooting where he and another person followed victims in a neighborhood in Charlotte and opened fire with a high-caliber rifle, the release said.
All of the gang members are either immigrants or the children of immigrants in the U.S. and they are also facing state charges for their crimes.
“Today’s guilty verdicts underscore that even though gang membership may in some ways ‘protect’ gangsters from outsiders, it certainly won’t protect them from the vast reach of the US. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina Jill Westmoreland Rose said in a statement.
The MS-13 gang members were four of 37 who were charged with racketeering after an investigation into the criminal activity by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. Thirty of the other gang members charged with racketeering are either awaiting sentencing or have pleaded guilty to the charges.
According to the U.S. District Attorney, Ordonez-Vega and Zelaya were convicted on charges to murder in aid of racketeering. Those charges are connected to two separate murders. Meanwhile, Sosa was convicted for attempted murder in the aid of racketeering.
In 2015 the U.S. Treasury Department froze the assets of three members of the gang who were funneling funds back to higher-ups in El Salvador from prison. These actions were an attempt “disrupt” MS-13’s financial network by cutting off profits from illegal activities in the United States, the Treasury Department said. In 2012 the Obama administration designated MS-13 a transnational crime organization and implemented sanctions against six members in 2013.
While the U.S. government attempts to target MS-13’s earnings, targeting its culture is proving more difficult. The fierce loyalty among members is unique, Ron Hosko, former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, told FOX Business.
“They’re very cohesive and often directed by imprisoned bosses in El Salvador to recruit and expand in American communities. That tends to mean there’s an aggressive internal enforcement mechanism which equates to internal discipline involving physical violence and murder for disrespect or betrayal,” he said.