(CNS News) – Ten alleged MS-13 gang members have been indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Texas on a series of charges, including seven murders that “were allegedly brutal in nature.” Some of the crimes also occurred in Maryland.
On Aug. 25, 2022, the Department of justice issued a press release about the indictment. The indictment charges 10 alleged MS-13 gang members with “crimes including racketeering conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to murder in aid of racketeering, related firearms charges, and obstruction of justice.”
The indictment includes allegations that the defendants “were leaders and members” of La Mara Salvatrucha, or “MS-13.” The defendants face criminal charges “related to seven murders, one attempted murder, and one murder conspiracy,” the DOJ release reports.
These crimes allegedly took place between 2015 through 2018 in the Southern District of Texas and the District of Maryland.
The indictment states:
“In or around July 2018, WALTER ANTONIO CHICAS-GARCIA, A/K/A ‘WALTER,’ A/K/A ‘MEJIA,’ and others contacted MS-13 leaders in El Salvador, including FRANKLIN TREJO-CHAVARRIA, A/K/A ‘IMPULSIVO,’ and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, and requested and received permission to murder Elian Ortiz, a seventeen year-old male, because he wanted to leave MS-13.”
“On or about July 3, 2018, WALTER ANTONIO CHICAS-GARCIA, A/K/A ‘WALTER,’ A/K/A ‘MEJIA,’ and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, lured Elian Ortiz to a wooded area in Houston, Texas, in order to murder Elian Ortiz.”
“On or about July 3, 2018, WALTER ANTONIO CHICAS-GARCIA, A/K/A ‘WALTER,’ A/K/A ‘MEJIA,’ and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, murdered Elian Ortiz in Houston, Texas.”
“On or about July 3, 2018, WALTER ANTONIO CHICAS-GARCIA, A/K/A ‘WALTER,’ A/K/A ‘MEJIA,’ and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, took photos of Elian Ortiz’s body to send them to MS-13 leaders in El Salvador, which included FRANKLIN TREJO-CHAVARRIA, A/K/A ‘IMPULSIVO,’ and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury as proof of the murder.”
The DOJ noted that the seven murders in question “were allegedly brutal in nature,” including “multiple acts of mutilation and dismemberment with machetes.” Among the alleged murder victims are “a juvenile female and a police informant,” the DOJ stated.
In recent years “law enforcement uncovered several alleged homicides and attempted murders related to these cliques and their associates,” the release states. These crimes “were committed to maintain the gang’s control, to retaliate against rival gangs and to seek retribution against those who were believed to have cooperated with law enforcement against the gang,” said the DOJ.
The press release further stated that, “leaders in El Salvador and elsewhere allegedly authorized the acts to ensure individual members and cliques followed the customs, rules, and protocols of the larger MS-13 enterprise.”
“MS-13, including its leadership, membership, and associates, constituted an ‘enterprise,’ as defined by Title 18, United States Code, Section 1961(4), that is, a group of individuals associated in fact, which engaged in, and the activities of which affected, interstate and foreign commerce,” the indictment reads.
The document defines MS-13 as “a violent international street gang involved in a variety of violent criminal activities operating throughout the United States.” https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1528686/download
According to an Aug. 26 press release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
“The 10 individuals indicted included Franklin Trejo-Chavarria, 25; Julio Vigili-Lopex, 25; Walter Antonio Chicas-Garcia, 25; Luis Ernesto Carbajal-Peraza, 30; Carlos Alexi Garcia-Gongora, 24; Wilson Jose Ventura-Mejia, 26; Angel Miguel Aguilar-Ochoa, 37; Marlon Miranda-Moran, 23; William Rivas-Guido, 26; and Carlos Elias Henriquez-Torres, 22.”
Among the 10 defendants, eight of them are in U.S. custody except for Trejo-Chavarria and Vigil-Lopez, both of whom are currently in El Salvador, according to ICE.
“All ten defendants are citizens of El Salvador,” the release reads.
Neither the DOJ nor ICE’s announcement of the indictment specified the legal status of any of the 10 alleged MS-13 gang members. The DOJ press release omitted the fact that all 10 men are El Salvadorian nationals.
CNS News contacted the Department of Justice to inquire about the legal statuses of each of the eight indicted alleged MS-13 members currently in the custody of U.S. law enforcement. The DOJ did not respond.
According to U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, “the charges in this case reflect the Justice Department’s commitment to dismantling and disrupting MS-13, a criminal organization that sows violence, terror, and fear in communities across the country.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray said, “This indictment is one example of the persistent work being done by the FBI and our partners to combat violent gangs like MS-13 that inundate communities with violence.”
“The FBI is committed to reducing violent crime and combating the threat criminal enterprises pose,” said Wray. “We are proud to work alongside our local, state, Tribal and federal enforcement partners in bringing violent members of criminal organizations like MS-13 to justice.”
According to U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery, the case serves as “an important step in curbing crime in Texas,” as well as “a message to criminal organizations that federal authorities are working with local law enforcement to stop the violence.”
The allegations in the indictment further state that “transnational criminal street gangs like MS-13 are a plague upon society that must be rooted out in the interest of public safety and national security,” remarked Mark Dawson, the Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston.
“HSI Houston is committed to continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners to bring an end to the relentless terror and violence that they reign on the innocent and law-abiding members of our communities,” said Dawson.
The case is being investigated by the FBI, HSI, the Houston Police Department, the Galveston Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Prince George’s County Police Department, with assistance provided by the U.S. Marshals Service and the DEA.
According to the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs, “MS-13 was formed by Salvadoran immigrants that came to the United States in order to escape the civil war in their home country. Some of its members were trained in guerilla warfare and the use of military weapons. The gang is well-organized and is heavily involved in lucrative illegal enterprises, being notorious for its use of violence to achieve its objectives.”
“Fear and intimidation are used in extorting payments from any legitimate or illegitimate business owners for the right to conduct their business in MS-13 territory,” said the Office of Justice Programs. “MS-13 members have been involved in rapes and witness intimidation. In addition to local crimes, MS-13 is known to participate in numerous transnational crimes; for example, they are involved in the illegal trafficking of stolen vehicles from the United States to Central America. They also participate in weapon smuggling and illegal firearm sales.”